Telling their stories: The shining lights of Indigenous cinema

By Shannon Watts and Gem Mitchell

Hot on the heels of Reconciliation Week we are paying sincere homage to the First Nations people of our country by celebrating some of the great art and storytelling portrayed through Indigenous film. We have created a list of seven must-see Aboriginal Australian cinema pieces for your enjoyment. Bookmark this story so you can revisit these films during Naidoc Week (July 3-10).

Rabbit Proof Fence (2002) – Directed by Phillip Noyce, written by Doris Pilkington, and screenplay by Christine Olsen. Adapted from the book “Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence” the movie stars Evelyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury and Kenneth Branagh. It follows the story of three Indigenous girls, who have been brutally torn away from their mother and taken to a training camp for domestic workers as part of a new government policy to integrate Aboriginal Australians into white society.

You can stream this movie currently from Netflix.

Walkabout (1971) – Directed by Nicolas Roeg, written by Edward Bond, screenplay by Donald G. Payne. Starring Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil & Luc Roeg. The story follows two city-born children left for dead in the outback by their father after a botched murder attempt and rescued by an Aboriginal boy travelling on his spiritual/ traditional journey known as a “walkabout”.

You can stream this movie currently on Amazon Prime.

Stormboy (2019) – Directed by Shaw Seet, screenplay by Justin Monjo, novel Storm Boy written by Colin Thiele, starring Finn Little, Jai Courtney, Geoffrey Rush. This film is the second time the novel has been adapted following the original adaptation in 1976. The story follows retired businessman Michael Kingsley, reminiscing about his past as a lonely child who befriended an Aboriginal man as they developed a bond through rescuing and raising an injured, orphaned pelican.

You can stream this movie on Amazon Prime or the original 1976 version on Netflix. 

The Tracker (2002) – Directed by Rolf De Heer, written by Rolf De Heer, starring David Gulpilil, Damon Gameau, Gary Sweet, Grant Page and Noel Wilton. When a woman is murdered in early 1920’s a native Australian man is accused of the crime. A group of three white men is given a mission to find and capture him with the help of an experienced native Australian.

You can stream this movie now on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Samson and Delilah (2009) -Directed by Warwick Thorton, written by Warwick Thornton & Beck Cole, starring Rowan McNamara, Marissa Gibson, Mitjili Napanangka Gibson, Scott Thornton and Peter Bartlett. The story follows two fourteen-year-old kids, Samson (McNamara) and Delilah (Gibson). Samson tries to steal one of the community’s sole motorcars and convinces her to escape with him to Alice Springs.

You can stream this now on Stan.

The Sapphires (2012) – directed by Wayne Blair, written by Keith Thompson and Tony Briggs (adapted from the stage play), starring Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy. Based on the true story of a group of four young and talented Aboriginal Australian girls who performed for the US troops in Vietnam in 1968.

You can stream this movie now on Netflix.

Toomelah (2011) – Written & directed by Ivan Sen, starring Daniel Connors, Christopher Edwards and Michael Connors. The film’s story follows a young, misguided boy growing up in Toomelah, New South Wales, with aspirations to be a “gangster”, but when another drug dealer arrives in town a turf war erupts, making Daniel question whether his life is headed on the right track.

You can stream this now on Amazon Prime.

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