April 25, 2007

Australian aboriginal film festival

Slices of indigenous life

Next month's Message Sticks festival will show the diverse interests of Aboriginal filmmakers, writes Sandy GeorgeMessage Sticks is unique. Other indigenous film festivals--ImagineNATIVE in Canada, Wairoa in New Zealand--include films made about, as well as by, indigenous people. Message Sticks will not include a Rabbit-Proof Fence or a Ten Canoes, which had non-indigenous directors.

There are three US titles in the festival this year including Miss Navajo, a documentary about a pageant in which contestants are judged on a variety of skills, including butchering sheep and the ability to speak the languages of their heritage, rather than the way they wear a bikini. Another is Four Sheets to the Wind, about struggling to cope with city life after growing up on a reservation. Director Sterlin Harjo found a Native American casino owner to put up the $US125,000 ($150,000) budget, less than the cost of a half-hour drama for Australian TV. Hollywood spends billions on film, but none of it reaches indigenous America.

"It is good for filmmakers here to see the resourcefulness of filmmakers in Canada and the US," Dale says. "In the US, you have to fend for yourself and if you get to make a film you are really lucky."

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