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Screen Black: Sydney Film Festival 2013

Media Release: May 9, 2013 in Film & Television |
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Sydney Film Festival is proud to announce a new partnership with Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department, a team that has nurtured many of the projects and filmmakers that Sydney Film Festival has screened, including Ivan Sen’s shorts Wind (1999) and Dust (2000) and his Cannes-selected feature Toomelah (2011); Warwick Thornton’s Green Bush (2005); and Rachel Perkins’ films from her debut Radiance in 1998 to her feature film Mabo (2012).

This year’s program will present the latest films by Indigenous filmmakers from Australia, including AFI award-winning director Sen’s Opening Night film Mystery Road; Steven McGregor’s documentary Big Name No Blanket; emerging talent Dylan McDonald’s documentary Buckskin; and Jon Bell’s short film The Chuck In.

"In 2013 when Indigenous Australian screen work is grabbing attention all over the world, Sydneysiders have the privilege of getting the first look at our latest offerings. Screen: Black promises a truly thoughtprovoking and celebratory journey into the world of contemporary Indigenous Australia," said Erica Glynn of Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department.

SFF has screened many films and documentaries from Indigenous filmmakers. The first documentary directed by an Indigenous woman, Essie Coffey’s landmark My Survival as an Aboriginal, a collaboration with non-Indigenous filmmaker Martha Ansara, screened in the festival’s short-film competition in 1979. Tracey Moffat’s Nice Coloured Girls (1987) and Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy (1989) and Warwick Thornton’s Green Bush (2005) all screened in competition.

"We are absolutely delighted to enter into this partnership with Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department, and to present these great new works by Indigenous filmmakers at the festival. Of course, it is a special moment and a privilege, as we open the 60th Sydney Film Festival with the multi-talented Ivan Sen’s magnificent Mystery Road," said SFF Festival Director, Nashen Moodley.

Full line-up of films by Indigenous filmmakers at the Sydney Film Festival 2013

Mystery Road (Feature Film, World Premiere)

Director: Ivan Sen | Cast: Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Ryan Kwanten, Damian Walshe-Howling, Tasma Walton, Tricia Whitton, Zoe Carides and Samara Weaving.

The Opening Night Film and World Premiere will kickstart the 2013 Sydney Film Festival at the State Theatre on Wednesday 6 June at 7:30pm.

In his astonishing and mesmerising new film, Ivan Sen (Beneath Clouds; Dreamland; Toomelah, SFF Official Competition 2011) uses the conventions of the Western and the police procedural in a subtle examination of the social and political context of a small town in the Australian Outback. Indigenous detective Jay Swan (an impressive Aaron Pedersen) returns to his remote hometown and his first case is the murder of a teenage girl. Having spent a considerable amount of time in the big city, when Jay returns he is alienated from both the police force and his community, including his own daughter. Though thwarted in his investigations by a lack of cooperation from the locals, and a lack of interest from his fellow cops, Jay gradually unravels a complex crime web. Directing a stellar Australian cast including Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten, Jack Thompson, Tasma Walton, Tricia Whitton, Damian Walshe-Howling and Samara Weaving, Sen has made a suspenseful and intelligent mystery aided by terrific performances. The Outback, in all its widescreen glory, plays its part too. Showing himself to be as astute at directing action scenes as he is at making incisive social commentary, the multi-talented Sen’s Mystery Road is all the more remarkable given that he directed, wrote, shot, edited and scored the film.

Drawing on his own background growing up as child in Inverell with an Aboriginal mother and an absent white father, Ivan Sen’s first feature-length film Beneath Clouds received global acclaim, winning a Silver Bear at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival, Best Director at the 2002 Australian Film Institute Awards and a screening at Sundance in 2003. Sen has subsequently written and directed a number of award-winning documentaries. His documentary Yellow Fella screened in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005. In 2008 Sen commenced production on his experimental second feature Dreamland (2010), shot on location in Nevada, USA. It screened at the Brisbane and Melbourne film festivals; and premiered internationally in competition at the Pusan Film Festival. In 2011 Sen completed his third feature, Toomelah, which was set in the far northwest of New South Wales where his family come from. Toomelah was selected in Un Certain Regard at Cannes, and screened in Official Competition at SFF 2011 and at the 2011 Melbourne Film Festival. It has won a number of international awards, including the UNESCO Award at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. In 2012 Sen was honoured with the Byron Kennedy Award at the Australian Film Industry Awards (AACTAS).

Buckskin (Foxtel Documentary, World Premiere) | Australia

Director: Dylan McDonald

Like many young Aboriginal men, Jack Buckskin grew up not knowing his traditional language and culture, as it had been driven almost to extinction a hundred years ago. Living on the edge of Adelaide, a lifechanging event set him on a new path. Now Jack is on a mission to renew the Kaurna language and culture, the language of the Adelaide Plains, and teach it to as many people as he can in his lifetime. As his Uncle Steve says, "People who are still very strong in their culture walk differently." Jack Buckskin is no exception to this.

Dylan McDonald was born in Alice Springs and educated in Sydney and Alice Springs. Buckskin is his first documentary. Dylan has been making pictures and stories from an early age, from drawing, to painting, to taking photographs and writing. Moving pictures are a natural medium of expression for him. During the making of Buckskin he did some of the cinematography, including all the time-lapse photographs; and he composed and played the music for the film. His screen work has won awards in Alice Springs, and in 2012 Dylan was awarded the Alice Springs 2012 National Aboriginal and Islander (NAIDOC) Senior Youth of the Year.

Big Name No Blanket (Foxtel Documentary, World Premiere) | Australia

Director: Steven McGregor

The charismatic and inspirational frontman of the Warumpi Band, George Rrurrambu Burarrawanga, hailed from Elcho Island, off the coast of Arnhem Land. George moved to Papunya (northwest of Alice) to get married, and joined Sammy Butcher, his brother-in-law, in a band named after a small local community and honey-ant dreaming site. With Sammy on guitar, his brother Gordon on drums and songwriter Neil Murray, they took to the road. The first musicians ever to release a pop record in an Aboriginal language — ‘Jailanguru Pakarnu’ — they rocked Australia from the Centre out in the ’80s. Steven McGregor’s impressive documentary, filled with interviews, clips and scorching music, follows George’s story, from his island home to his premature demise.

Steven McGregor is an Indigenous writer/director from Darwin. He has worked in the film and television industry since joining Imparja Television as a cameraman and editor in the 1990s. A directing graduate of AFTRS, Steven has worked on numerous documentary and drama projects as a writer, director and/or producer, including a 50-minute drama, Cold Turkey, for which he received two AFI nominations. His documentary 5 Seasons won the award for Best Indigenous Film at the Santa Fe Film Festival. My Brother Vinnie was a festival favourite, winning accolades in Australia and overseas, including nominations for a Logie and an IF Award. In 2007, Steven spent 10 months on the Baz Luhrmann epic Australia, working closely with Baz and his creative team as script adviser and acting tutor for the Indigenous cast. His most recent work is the documentary Croker Island Exodus (SFF 2012). Steven has also written for the acclaimed drama series Redfern Now; he received the 2013 AACTA for Best Screenplay in Television for the ‘Pretty Boy Blue’ episode.

The Chuck In (Short film, World Premiere) | Australia

Director: Jon Bell

Three 16-year-old boys concoct an elaborate plan to purchase a carton of liquid gold.

Writer/director Jon Bell‘s short-film credits include Two Big Boys, produced through The Bit of Black Business short-film series with SBS and Screen Australia (formally the AFC) in 2008. His first short film And Justice For One was made through the Lester Bostock Mentorship Scheme with Metroscreen in Sydney in 2003. Jon has written episodes for the Redfern Now TV Series with Blackfella Films, ABC and Screen Australia. His comedy-drama series The Gods of Wheat Street is currently in post-production.

Sydney Film Festival celebrates its 60th anniversary this 5-16 June bringing a packed program of screenings and special events to even more venues across Sydney. The full program will be announced on Wednesday 8 May 2013. Flexi passes are now on sale. For tickets and full up-to-date program information please visit

About Sydney Film Festival

Sydney Film Festival screens feature films, documentaries, short films and animations across the city at the State Theatre, Event Cinemas George Street, Dendy Opera Quays, the Art Gallery of NSW and the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Cremorne. The Festival is a major event on the New South Wales cultural calendar and is one of the world’s longest-running film festivals. For more information visit Sydney Film Festival also presents twelve films that vie for the ‘Official Competition’ a highly respected international honour that awards a $60,000.00 cash prize based on the decision of a jury of international and Australian filmmakers and industry professionals. Previous Sydney Film Festival Official Competition winners include: Alps (2012), A Separation (2011) — which went on to win an Academy Award®, Heartbeats (2010), Bronson (2009) and Hunger (2008).

The 60th Sydney Film Festival is supported by the NSW Government through Screen NSW, the Federal Government through Screen Australia, and the City of Sydney. The Festival’s Strategic partner is the NSW Government through Destination NSW.

Sydney Film Festival
5-16 June, 2013
Tickets & Info
1300 733 733

Media Enquiries

Emma Collison, Indigenous films consultant, Emma Collison Publicity
P: 9326 5554 M: 0418 584 795

Charlotte Greig, Publicity Manager, Sydney Film Festival P: 02 9690 5314 M: 0404 111 919