Looking Back to Move Forward: First Nations Films You Should Watch

Production still of Beck Cole from We Are Still Here for the chapter 'Grog Shop'
Published
February 19, 2024
February 26, 2024
Last Updated
February 20, 2024
Contributors
Written by
Talia Liddle
she/her
Arrernte and Luritja
Written by
she/her
Arrernte and Luritja
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the original storytellers. Since time immemorial we have had many complex and intelligent ways of keeping, sharing and holding stories.

In this continuation of Blackfulla Docos You Should Watch – here is a list of First Nations films to educate, inspire and find joy in. Truth-telling and the arts have long been ways for First Nations people to express themselves, with movies being a means to connect with people on another level. Sometimes, people don’t even know they’re being educated, shifting mindsets and telling our stories on our own terms. Representation matters – films for mob by mob is a way for us to be represented through our own lens.

Comedy and humour have always been a way for us to tell stories. For a lot of people who have experienced resistance, oppression and trauma, humour serves as a way of pushing forward. Some may say, this is why we are so funny.

However, the stereotypes of how people believe First Nations people to be; we address those issues through a lens of how colonisation has impacted the many aspects of our lives. In these films, you will see how oppression, displacement, pure racism and intergenerational trauma have impacted our young people. What many people don’t see is the community-led solutions to helping our own people. In the case of Samson and Delilah many young people faced with these issues were often taken out bush (by senior Aboriginal people), given jobs, food and a roof. Unfortunately – these programs were shut down. 

It is important to acknowledge the many different ways people choose to tell or convey their stories through movies – some comedy, some serious or straight-up educational films. With that said, manage your energy, learn and enjoy the deeply personal yet shared histories through our lenses. 

The Sapphires 

A still from The Sapphires

The Sapphires is a movie that shifted the nation, sparking joy in Indigenous families as a hopeful, inspiring and feel-good story was told. For me it was representation, in a good way, in a way that made me understand that we were capable of anything. Based on a true story, The Sapphires follows four strong Yorta Yorta women as their lives change forever. Discovered by an Irish talent scout, they were chosen to travel to Vietnam in 1968 to sing for the troops during the Vietnam War. This film explores themes of the Stolen Generations, identity, truth-telling and Country

And yes, I still have the playlist downloaded on my phone. 

  • How you’ll feel: Inspired, humbled, shocked 
  • What you’ll learn: Different experiences of the Stolen Generation 
  • Where to watch: Netflix, Apple TV

Link to trailer

Bran Nue Dae

A still from Bran Nue Dae

Bran Nue Dae is based on a 1990s musical that tells stories that relate to First Nations people across the country. It is a coming-of-age story that follows a runaway boy from a Catholic school in the 60s, meeting eccentric and key characters, whilst falling in love with a girl named Rosie. Bran Nue Dae is a musical and a comedic reflection of the issues faced in the 60s by Aboriginal people.

  • How you’ll feel: Good, happy
  • What you’ll learn: Racism in all forms, experiences with religion 
  • Where to watch: Netflix, Stan, Foxtel and Binge 

Link to trailer

Rabbit Proof Fence 

A still from Rabbit Proof Fence

Rabbit Proof Fence is a film that tackles the sad truth of many experiences of the Stolen Generations. Based on a true story, this film follows three young girls as they are forcibly stolen, and sent off to a bungalow – basically a prison for kids. During the night the three young girls escape, with a plan to go home. On a journey through the harsh arid desert, they are followed by an Aboriginal tracker sent by the white man. 

This movie conveys a similar theme that happened all throughout Australia. Children were stolen, some lost, some returned and some never found.

  • How you’ll feel: Sad, empathetic, better educated 
  • What you’ll learn: Harsh truths about the Stolen Generation
  • Where to watch: Netflix

Link to trailer

We Are Still Here 

We Are Still Here movie poster

We Are Still Here is a film that reckons with and shows the strength that First Nations people have and share globally with the experience of colonisation. This film is an anthology of eight stories by eight different storytellers from Aotearoa and the continent of so-called Australia. Woven together by director Beck Coles, We Are Still Here exhibits moments of sadness, humour and sheer resilience. 

  • How you’ll feel: Sad, thoughtful, empathetic
  • What you’ll learn: About the shared experiences of colonisation on Indigenous people, and the intergenerational strength and resilience we collectively have
  • Where to watch: Netflix

Link to trailer

Black Comedy 

Black Comedy promo cover

A play on words, Black Comedy is simply that – Blak comedycreated by some of the funniest and best Blak writers, directors and producers, and brought to life by a multitude of actors. A sketch show that represents the experiences faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that makes light on growing up in so-called Australia. Black Comedy created some of the most widely known taglines in Australia – “so what's this then slut?!”

  • How you’ll feel: Humoured, happy 
  • What you’ll learn: Shared experiences of growing up Blak in Australia
  • Where to watch: ABC IVIEW

Samson and Delilah 

Samson & Delilah movie poster

Samson and Delilah is an award winning film directed by Warwick Thornton that explores the ideas of growing up in a remote community living in a remote community in Central Australia. Through the lenses of Samson and Delilah, we see them form a bond as they leave their community and navigate issues like poverty and substance abuse. Focusing on visual storytelling, the film has little dialogue which allows you to really sit with the feelings and emotions both Samson and Delilah are going through. Although this film tackles many social issues, as the story unfolds you see the heart of this movie which is the strength and resilience of these young people. 

  • How you’ll feel: Saddened
  • What you’ll learn: Impacts of colonisation 
  • Where to watch: SBS on Demand
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