Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the original storytellers. Since time immemorial we have had many complex and creative ways of keeping, sharing and holding stories.
Whether it’s through oral traditions or held and shared through the body, we are amongst some of the most sought-after and talented storytellers across the globe. Through the lens of a camera, we have been able to shine a light on the injustices faced by First Nations people in this country, and the intergenerational strength captured through the generations of storytelling.
Film and media have historically been some of the only ways we can get through to the public. Some would say film has been an instrumental part of political and social change within this country, one movie being Samson and Delilah by Warwick Thornton.
Survival. Strength. Perseverance. Three words that represent some of the themes you will come across in these films, from First Australians to The Sapphires, you will be educated, you will laugh and you will cry.
Below we highlight ten incredible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander films that include moments of strength, perseverance, comedy, compassion and deep truth-telling.
Check in with your energy while watching these films. Many of these films include the dark truths of this country and can be quite confronting to watch at times.
The Australians Wars is a documentary series about the Frontier Wars here in Australia. This three-part series is directed by Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman Rachel Perkins. Rachel investigates the wars that created the nation we know as Australia. Diving into archival records, The Australian Wars uncovers the harsh truths of the major battles, military tactics and historical figures that were part of this land battle that existed for over a hundred years.
First Australians is a documentary series directed by some of the most distinguished storytellers in the country, Beck Cole and Rachel Perkins. We hear harsh truths about the past, whilst speaking to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander historians, politicians and people.
The Black Panther movement in Australia was a political activism group who fought for the rights of First Nations peoples. They were influenced by the Black Panther movement in the United States. While First Nations men were seen to be leading the group, there were many incredibly staunch First Nations women at the heart of the movement. Black Panther Woman tells the fierce stories of these women, specifically Marlene Cummins, and their connections with other Black Panthers.
Larapinta is directed by Gary Hamaguchi – a Noongar and Jaru man from Broome – and hosted by me! It is the first-ever doco-series about the oldest river in the world – Lhere Pinta (The Finke River), which runs alongside the oldest living cultures in the world. The river is a majestic, powerful and sacred life source, once home to dinosaurs, megafauna, rainforests and a rich ecosystem that is now under major threat due to the rapid rate of climate change and human destruction.
During the series, I take you back to my Country to listen to and learn from people belonging to the oldest living cultures on Earth – my people.
The Dark Emu Story is directed by Allan Clarke – a Muruwari and Gomeroi filmmaker. The film explores the story of Bruce Pascoe’s best-selling (and controversial) book, Dark Emu. This book sparked conversations amongst many academics and Australians, inspiring new yarns around land management and First Nations knowledge systems.
Directed by Kaytetye man Warrick Thorton, We Dont Need A Map is a unique film that explores the ideology surrounding the famous southern cross constellation here in so-called Australia. This thought-provoking documentary explores what these stars mean to cultures who have used them for ceremony, tracking, hunting and more. Although the Southern Cross has become a symbol for white Australia, Warwick Thornton uncovers the true meaning of these incredible night stars.
Still We Rise is directed by Saibai man, John Harvey, in collaboration with renowned Gumbaynggirr activist Gary Foley. It is a powerful and evoking documentary made solely out of archival footage. The film showcases some of the most fearless Blaktivists of the 70s and the impact of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy – the oldest continuing protest occupation site in the world.
You Can Go Now is a documentary that follows Richard Bell through 50 years of activism and art. Richard is a fierce activist who uses art to challenge social norms, telling stories that make you question how colonisation has impacted art. While his stories are grounded in truth-telling, he brings a unique energy to his practice as an artist.
“My art is an act of protest.” - Richard Bell
We Are Warriors (WAW) is an Indigenous social enterprise that exhibits Blak excellence and pushes change from the ground up. In a new documentary series, WAW showcases several of the deadly creatives (Warriors) in hopes of inspiring a younger generation. Rapper Nooky is the heart and soul of this community and film, with the creation story of WAW beginning with his struggles and journey.
Directed by Dean Gibson, Incarceration Nation shows deep insight into the hundreds of years of oppression, colonial violence and unjust prejudice towards First Nations people that have led us to be the most incarcerated race in the world. This film is more for non-First Nations people to listen to and learn about the violence of legal system from First Nations experts and people with lived experience. First Nations people are advised this film is confronting and watching it may cause more harm.
Audrey Napanangka tells the story of a strong Warlpiri woman and her Sicilian partner Santo. This documentary tells the shared narrative of many First Nations families and what they face when juggling mainstream culture, education and colonial systems. However despite the travesties faced, through humour, culture and collective strength, they keep fighting.