About seven years ago, the National Film and Sound Archive approached documentary filmmaker Alec Morgan, who specializes in archival history films, to examine a reel found in a safe, where it had been for about 50 year.
It was a 10-minute silent film, shot in the 1940s, featuring members of the Fitzroy Aboriginal community. There was no reference to where the film came from or who put it there, but Morgan recognized civil rights activist Bill Onus – who would become campaign leader for the 1967 referendum – and his brother. , Eric.
Morgan met Bill’s grandson, opera singer Tiriki Onus, who told him he knew Bill had made films, but thought most had burned down in a trailer fire at the late 60’s.
Tiriki was driven to better understand his grandfather; the couple reunited in an attempt to uncover the origin of the mysterious film. Co-writing and co-directing what was to become In firethey discovered the remarkable story of Bill, that of Australia’s first Aboriginal filmmaker.
After a premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival, a theatrical screening and broadcast on ABC, In fire is now one of six films to compete for the AACTA Best Documentary Award this year.
Lachlan McLeod’s Melbourne International Film Festival is also closing in on nominations today, To cleana portrait of the late Sandra Pankhurst and a phone photo by Jason van Genderen Everyone is Omaa tribute to the matriarch of his family.
Others to win a snap include Kasimir Burgess’ look at the ’80s campaign to save the Franklin River, the aptly named franklin; by Ben Lawrence Ithaca, following John Shipton’s tireless campaign to save his son, Julian Assange; and the visual and orchestral meditation of Jennifer Peedom and Joseph Nizeti, River.
Each of the films was voted on by AACTA members, with the second round of voting, which will determine the winner, taking place in October.
Last year, AACTA adjusted its voting framework so that category rounds are staggered throughout the year. Short film nominees were announced in early August, with more categories to follow ahead of lunch and the awards ceremony in December.
“After receiving a large number of nominations, we are proud to have a list of nominees who delve into real-life stories and issues,” said Ivan Vukusic, AACTA Awards and Industry Development Manager.
“We can remember that Australia is responsible for producing some of the best documentaries available in the world.”
Morgan agrees that Australia’s prowess in documentary filmmaking is showcased in this year’s field, noting that many have inspired him and Tiriki.
He hopes the new government will support Australian content, and documentaries more generally, noting that there are many Australian stories – like that of Bill Onus – that still have not been told.
“A writer said: ‘If he were white, there would be statues in his memory in every town.’ There are a lot of stories we have to tell about ourselves,” Head said.
“It’s a privilege to be nominated for Best Documentary because there are so many great documentaries out there, but there are probably so many great documentary stories that won’t get told because people can’t find funding for them. .
“Even a story like this, which has won major awards now, you have a hard time going through the steps to convince people of its importance, and it’s very competitive. That’s why we’re really excited and happy. It gives us inspiration and tells us to continue on our next project.
“The bruises disappear and the film is left. He’s talking to people, which is great. That’s why we’re fighting these battles and going through this long process, because we know stories matter.
Australian history is also at the heart of franklinwhose nod comes at the right time – he launches his theatrical campaign on Sunday, on the occasion of Father’s Day.
Narrated by Hugo Weaving, the doc follows environmentalist Oliver Cassidy as he traces his late father’s trip up the Franklin River to witness the 1980s blockade that prevented it from being turned into a hydroelectric dam. Alongside this, the film features archival footage and interviews with key campaign figures, including former Greens leader Bob Brown and Tasmanian Aboriginal elder Uncle Jim Everett.
Producer Chris Kamen tells IF he and the team are blown away by the nomination for the film — a labor of love for nearly 10 years, helped to screen by the backing of 791 crowdfunders.
He was encouraged by the response to the film at recent sold-out screenings at the Melbourne International Film Festival, where he also ranched among the public’s favoritesand hopes the nomination will further encourage people to see it on the big screen.
“It’s a very cinematic experience,” he says.
“Our ultimate goal is to bring this incredible story of the Franklin to a younger generation, to show our solidarity with today’s young activists who are fighting for a safer climate and countless other environmental issues. We believe that this is an inspiring and informative case study of how peaceful activism can really help make the world a better place.
More details on each nominee below:
Opera singer Tiriki Onus discovers a 70-year-old silent film believed to have been made by his grandfather, Aboriginal leader and filmmaker Bill Onus. As Tiriki travels across the continent and pieces together clues to the film’s origins, he discovers more about Bill, his fight for Indigenous rights, and the price he paid to speak out.
In fire won the 2021 Victorian Premier’s History Award and the AWGIE Award for Public Broadcast Documentary.
Director: Tiriki Onus, Alec Morgan
Screenwriter: Tirki Onus, Alec Morgan
Producer: Tom Zubrycki
A glimpse into the world of trauma cleanup through the journey of larger-than-life business owner Sandra Pankhurst and Melbourne’s specialist trauma cleanup service workers. As the film states, Pankhurst has “lived many lives as an abused child, suburban parent, drag queen, sex worker, funeral director, business owner, motivational speaker.”
To clean premiered at SXSW in March and was the closing film at the recent Melbourne International Film Festival.
Director: Lachlan McLeod
Producer: David Elliot-Jones, Charlotte Wheaton
Filmmaker Jason van Genderen is obsessed with making home videos about his family and their Dutch matriarch, Oma. He and his wife Megan take care of Oma’s dementia in increasingly fanciful ways, accidentally turning her into an online celebrity. Their unassuming home videos, shot during the pandemic, are attracting over 100,000,000 views worldwide. Everyone is Oma follows in the footsteps of the NSW Central Coast family as they navigate Oma’s failing health in the spotlight of an enthusiastic audience of well-meaning strangers.
Director: Jason Van Genderen
Producers: Jason van Genderen, Roslyn Walker, Olivia Olley
Featuring never-before-seen archival footage and interviews with key players such as Bob Brown and Uncle Jim Everett, the eight-year “Franklin Campaign” proves to be the most significant environmental protest in history. from Australia; an inspiring example of the power of nonviolent direct action to bring about lasting change.
Director: Kasimir Burgess
Screenplay: Kasimir Burgess, Claire Smith, Natasha Pincus
Producer: Chris Kamen
Filmed over two years across the UK, Europe and the US, an exploration of 76-year-old retired builder John Shipton’s tireless campaign to save his son, Julian Assange. Assange remains in pre-trial detention at the UK’s maximum-security Belmarsh prison as he appeals an extradition order to the US where he could face 175 years in prison for his role in the publication of classified US diplomatic records.
Director: Ben Lawrence
Producer: Adrian Devant, Gabriel Shipton
A cinematic and musical odyssey that explores the remarkable relationship between humans and rivers. Throughout history, rivers have shaped our landscapes and our journeys; crossed our cultures and our dreams. River reunites the award-winning creative team behind Mountain, including composer Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, cinematographer Renan OZturk and narrator Willem Dafoe.
Directed by: Jennifer Peedom, Joseph Nizeti (co-director)
Screenwriter: Jennifer Peedom, Joseph Nizeti (co-screenwriter)
Producer: Jo-Anne McGowan, Jennifer Peedom, John Smithson