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In NAIDOC Week (3 – 10 July 2016), Australia celebrates the history, culture, and achievements of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Under this year’s NAIDOC Week theme, “Songlines – The living narrative of our nation”, we can celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures through the lens of film.

ATSI flags

Celebrating NAIDOC Week and flying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags. Source: http://www.naidoc.org.au/celebrating-naidoc-week.

NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. It originated in the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920′s, which sought to increase awareness in the public sphere of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. The committee was originally responsible for organising activities during the week of celebration, but now ‘NAIDOC’ stands as the name of the week itself.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are many and diverse. Indigenous communities keep their cultural heritage alive by passing their language, knowledge, arts, rituals and performances from one generation to another, with elders acting as custodians of each culture.

In the spirit of NAIDOC Week, check out some of the great films we have on offer that celebrate the history, culture, and achievements of Australia’s first peoples.

Emily in Japan celebrates the artistic achievements of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, an accomplished female Aboriginal artist from the Utopia country in Central Australia. While she only began painting on canvas at 78 years old, in the 8 years before her death she produced a staggering output of 3000 canvases. “Emily in Japan” tells the story of the making of one of the most comprehensive single artist exhibitions to travel internationally from Australia, traversing across two entirely different cultures: from the red desert where the paintings were made, to the entirely different art world of Japan. The success of the exhibition signifies the achievement of one of Emily’s dreams: that her work, her stories, and the stories of her people, be seen by people around the world.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, "Summer Rains on Alalgura", 1991. Acrylic on Belgium linen, 130 x 230 cm.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, “Summer Rains on Alalgura”, 1991. Acrylic on Belgium linen, 130 x 230 cm. Source: http://www.artnet.com/artists/emily-kame-kngwarreye/summer-rains-on-alalgura.

Darling River Kids follows a 2000 kilometre expedition led by a Barkindji elder, who attempts to ensure the continuity of traditional knowledge and ensure the culture is passed on to the children of Wilcannia.

Murandak: Songs of Freedom journeys into the heart of Aboriginal protest music following the Black Arm Band, a gathering of some of Australia’s finest Indigenous musicians. These musicians take to the road with their songs of struggle, resistance and freedom. From the concert halls of the Sydney Opera House to remote Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory, murundak – meaning ‘alive’ in Woirurrung language – brings together pioneering singers as they share their stories of sorrow, anger and hope.

Utopia is a film by the Emmy and BAFTA winning film-maker and journalist John Pilger, that shines light on Australia’s dark and, at times, forgotten past and the first peoples who inhabited it. It examines the disparities between the image of the so-called ‘Lucky Country’ and the secrets of Australia’s repressed history, being both a personal journey and a universal story of power and resistance. ‘Utopia’ is a vast region in northern Australia and home to the oldest human presence on earth. ‘This film is a journey into that secret country,’ says John Pilger, ‘It will describe not only the uniqueness of the first Australians, but their trail of tears and betrayal and resistance – from one utopia to another’.

Banjo Morton, an Ampilatwatja elder bordering the Utopia homelands. (IMAGE: Chris Graham).

Banjo Morton, an Ampilatwatja elder bordering the Utopia homelands. (IMAGE: Chris Graham).

Be enlightened this NAIDOC Week and celebrate the history, culture, and achievements of Australia’s first peoples through the commanding narrative of documentary film.

Yabun Festival, Sydney.

Yabun Festival, Sydney. Source: http://www.australia.com/en/events/aboriginal-events.html.

Written by Tara Janus

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