July 3 marks the beginning of NAIDOC Week, a time to celebrate and bring attention to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander excellence and culture. The theme for 2022 is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! It's a call to action, one that seeks to embolden First Nations folk and allies alike to advocate for systemic, institutional and cultural reform. Of course, First Nations peoples have been doing this from the beginning and it's on non-Indigenous people to shoulder this responsibility, during NAIDOC Week and beyond.
At the heart of meaningful action, is education. And what better way to listen and learn than through the medium of film? Netflix recognises this, and is spotlighting First Nations storytelling on its platform this month. From classics like Rabbit Proof Fence to the supremely joyful Top End Wedding, if you're looking to dive into First Nations film this week, then this is a great starting point.
The Art of Incarceration (2021)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples account for 3 percent of the population and yet they make up 27 percent of Australia's prison population, with Pasifika peoples not far behind. The Art of Incarceration aims to interrogate this, taking audiences deep into Victoria's Fulham Correctional Centre and exploring greatly misrepresented issues like cultural disconnection, intergenerational trauma, addiction and institutionalisation, while surfacing with solutions through art.
My Name Is Gulpilil (2021)
My Name Is Gulpilil is the work of Molly Reynolds who upon hearing about David Gulpilil's cancer diagnosis, saddled herself with the mammoth task of capturing the actor and artist in his final years. A rare portrait of an actor audiences and fans are not often afforded. The doco turned out to be David's last time on screen as he reflected on his own mortality and the life he inevitably left behind.
Gurrumul paints a portrait of the celebrated Yolngu musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Blind from birth, Gurrumul's music was greatly inspired by culture and country; hailing from Elcho Island in far North East Arnhem Land.
Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra (2022)
This documentary tells the story of Stephen, Russell and David Page – the three brothers that fashioned Bangarra into one of Australia's leading dance companies. Through the eyes of the Page brothers and with cameos from company alumni, the film explores the extraordinary power of art as a messenger for social change and healing.
Jasper Jones (2017)
Often described as Australia's answer to To Kill A Mockingbird, the film is an adaptation of Craig Silvey's novel of the same name. One which follows thirteen-year-old Charlie, who is startled in the middle of the night by someone rapping on his window. It's Jasper Jones, a local misfit, and he desperately seeks Charlie's help.
Rabbit Proof Fence (2002)
Loosely based on a true story, this tale follows three Aboriginal girls who have been taken from their homes and put in a settlement and forced to assimilate to white culture. The girls escape and make the nine-week trek along the rabbit proof fence in an attempt to get back to their mother. This film is an important one. It was one of the first mainstream depictions of the Stolen Generations and brought some much needed awareness into the public consciousness.
Top End Wedding (2019)
Helmed by Wayne Blair, Top End Wedding is more than a romantic comedy. Miranda Tapsell is a charismatic lead, a city lawyer on the cusp of marrying her husband Ned. When her mother leaves her dad and disappears suddenly, Lauren must locate her in time to have the wedding she always dreamed of. It ties in conversations about intergenerational trauma, assimilation and racism with heart and humour.
Samson and Delilah (2009)
Warwick Thornton coaxes us into this story of survival with his unflinching lens. Filmed in and around Mparntwe, Thornton introduces us to 14-year-old Samson and Delilah as the two cross paths and form a silent, yet palpable bond. A history of violence and indifference has scratched out this plot of reality for the two to inhabit, one which they eventually attempt to escape from together in a stolen car.
Looking for other ways to participate meaningfully in NAIDOC Week? Take this list of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses to support. Meanwhile, here are 14 First Nations creatives to follow on Instagram and a powerful anthology of First Nations storytelling across 10 years from Sweatshop Literacy Movement.