Fade to Black

There's an explosion in Indigenous filmmaking in Australia, captured wonderfully in a collection of short films to air on ABC1.

mprABC-funded film Samson and Delilah recently stole the scene at the IF Awards, as moviegoers voted it their Best Feature Film for 2009. The Indigenous film had already picked up the Camera d’OR at Cannes and this week is in the running for the AFI Awards. Next month, Bran Nue Dae gets a general release, another sign of our booming Indigenous film industry.

This week Margaret Pomeranz will present a showcase of Indigenous short films in The New Black. Chatting with Samson and Delilah’s director Warwick Thornton (pictured), Pomeranz can’t help but hide her enthusiasm for the imagination that bursts to life in these shorts.

As she explained to TV Tonight, the collection shows that the ABC is also responding to the surge of talent coming from often under-represented voices.

“It’s exploding, it’s unbelievable what is happening,” she said. “At the tip of the iceberg is Samson and Delilah. But Warwick’s short films show a great talent from the beginning through to Samson and Delilah. It’s where everybody starts and I think it’s wonderful to see the beginning of this talent.

“Having an Indigenous unit within Screen Australia where that talent can be nurtured has been incredibly important. But I think when you have role models like Warwick, or like Rachel Perkins, who’s been incredibly successful then it’s like everybody –you see somebody doing something and you realise the possibilities for yourself.

“It’s like Short Film Festivals everywhere, the standard increases year by year because people with talent think ‘Hey, I can do that’ or ‘I can do better than that.’ So they become a part of this whole movement, and I just think it’s wonderful to see.”

As the co-presenter of At the Movies, Pomeranz is a champion of Australian stories on the screen. These films, with their strong female presence, particularly enthuse her.

“It’s a very unique view of this country -I know you can’t say ‘very unique’ but I just did!” she laughs.

“It’s Indigenous Australia expressing themselves on screen and it’s a part of Australia that hasn’t been represented in the past.”

The 7 shorts in The New Black range in style, setting, period, location and execution, setting them apart from  classic Australian films depicting Indigenous characters and stories of the Outback.

Jimmy Blacksmith was an icon of its era but it was written by a European Australian made by European Australians. I think there’s a difference. Our Indigenous culture has an amazing storytelling tradition and it seems that it’s a very natural fit with cinema,” she says.

“Storytelling is part of every culture but there is a difference to Indigenous stories and possibly a different rhythm too. These films have a voice of their own. They’re funny, they’re sad, but with a very clear voice.

“You get performers like Deborah Mailman and Leah Purcell saying ‘I want to do more….I want to sit in that Director’s chair,’ which is lovely.”

The New Black airs 8:35pm Thursday on ABC1.

Tomorrow: Margaret Pomeranz talks At The Movies.

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