Though the weather has, so far, proven to be slightly less hellish than last year (fingers crossed), Melbourne seems to be taking greater advantage of the long, slow outdoor evenings in the city. Moonlight Cinema, Rooftop Bar, if we can get outside to while the night away we’re a bunch of happy Melburnites. Blak Nite Cinema taps into this community of outdoor antics, coupling nighttime frolics with the ever-growing appreciation of Indigeonous cinema that has in the past couple of years been heralded by the release of award-winning Samson and Delilah and musical romp ban Nue Dae. Bringing together film, music, and food, the free event (sorry, did I forget to mention it was free) will screen a combination of shorts and features by up and coming Indigeonous film makers.
This is the second year the festival has run, starting off as an initiative run by the City of Melbourne’s Indigeonous arts program. Although the presence of a short by Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah), and one of the nights being hosted by actor Aaron Pederson are certainly trump cards for the event, the emphasis is also on supporting up and coming directors and filmmakers in the industry. Speaking to Dena Curtis, writer and director of film short Hush, she is filled with praise for the initiatives that have helped her start out as a filmmaker. “The Australian Film Council (now known as Screen Australia) and SBS had an initiative called ‘Bit of Black Business’, where thirteen, five minute dramas would be workshopped and screened on SBS.” The result was Hush, a short film about two aunties who seemingly meet up to play cards with each other. Instead, one of their daughters finds out, they’ve been running a phone sex line. “The idea popped into my head when I was watching tv with my brother. Those phone sex ads came on and I started thinking about my aunties and what they talk about when they meet up together, they’re very rowdy and don’t really have any shame.”
Hush is Curtis’ second film, originally travelling through the short film festivals throughout the 2007/2008 seasons to wide acclaim, winning awards at the Independence Festival, as well as the Créteil International Women’s Film Festival. The film is unusual in its focus on older women, their need for independance as well as an expression of sexuality. “As a certain age the roles are reversed between parent and child, and some of the film is about the battle over that swop. Older people aren’t useless at all, and they want their independence, but this film is also about how they can still behave like kids. Parents think sex is the naughtiest thing possible for their kids to talk about.” Ethel and Mary are played by veteran actors Marleen Cummins and Barbara Auriel Andrews, one of the first female indigenous singers to make her mark. “The other good thing about casting Marleen and Auriel was that they’re old friends, so they weren’t really shy about talking about their sexuality.”
Hush is part of a pattern for this year’s festival, that of indigenous filmmaking set in a more urban environment. Kirv Stenders’ Boxing Day, a quiet, desperate film about Chris, an ex-con trying to host a post Christmas dinner for his niece and brother’s ex wifeis set amongst silent suburban houses that don’t seem to notice, let alone react to the chaotic revelations that are going on inside ex-con Chris’ house. Mad Morro, a documentary directed by Kelrick Martin, traces the story of James and his impending release from prison, returning to the family home of his mother Debbie in Taree, and a hard slog of readjustment to life outside gaol. “It’s important to depict and urban indigenous life. For a long time people have perceived indigenous people in a certain way. Black people have the same experience as everyone else, they love, they lose, they fight, they drink, they smoke. It’s important to have stories that reflect that, that expand the idea of what indigenous people want.”
Beat Magazine, February, 2010