The WINDA Film Festival! Opening Night Premiere – Mahana

Last night I was fortunate enough to attend the ‘WINDA Film Festival’ Opening Night Gala. This festival is a new Indigenous film festival that is running in Sydney from – 

Thursday 10th November – Sunday 13th November – at the Hoyts EQ – Entertainment Quarter

This exciting film festival is focused on Indigenous films from across Australia and the world. Indigenous stories and films are becoming more prevalent around the world. It is important to give these stories a voice and recognise the growth of the Industry. 

Winda meaning ‘stars’ is a word from the Gumbaynggirr language from the north coast of New South Wales. In Aboriginal Astronomy, the people look to the stars for guidance, creation and for their ancestors. The term perfectly encapsulates the festival as people will be experiencing films that were created by Indigenous people.

The festival is screening six feature films and four documentaries from over eight different countries. 22 short films will also be shown. 

Opening Night Premiere

The opening night of the festival, Thursday 10th November, was very exciting and highly interesting! I felt very honoured that I was invited to attend, as I felt like I was witnessing something very special. 

The opening night screening was held at the beautiful Dendy Opera Quays Cinema in Circular Quay. I brought my friend Erica along with me and both of us were very excited about the evening. When we walked into the foyer there was a flurry of excited energy! This was lovely to see, as people seemed genuinely excited about being there and supporting this new festival! 


Erica in the foyer at the Dendy Opera Quays Cinema | Picture – Amy Johnston (2016) 

Speeches and Introductions for the Night

Following some mingling in the foyer, we were all ushered into the cinema by the events wonderful volunteers. Medika Thorpe, the Executive Director, and Pauline Clague, The Artistic Director, both spoke to the audience. Pauline’s speech was particularly inspiring, as she spoke about how hard it was to get the festival up and running. She also spoke about her love for each one of the films.

The Welcome to Country  by Uncle Charles ‘Chicka’ Madden was also very moving as he spoke about his background and his contributions to the Aboriginal community. 

The Film – Mahana (2016)

The Opening Night film was Lee Tamahori’s powerful film Mahana (2016). This film was made in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Actors speak a mixture of English/Maori in the film. Mahana is a story of family rivalry and reconciliation, set against the stunning backdrop of rural Aotearoa (New Zealand) in the 1960’s. 

Temuera Morrison (Grandfather Mahana) stars as a 60’s era farming patriarch who makes it clear his family should have nothing to do with rival family the Poatas. Then romance enters the picture, and grandson Simeon (Akuhata Keefe) sets out to find out how the feud first started. 

While the film was very quiet, it has a rich beauty to it. The land that the Mahana family lived on was beautiful and highly peaceful. There was something lovely about watching a family eat together at a long table. Those sort of situations aren’t regularly seen in films anymore. Nancy Brunning‘s (Ramona Mahana) performance was both subtle and haunting. I could not take my eyes off her for the whole film. I throughly enjoyed the film as I liked its simplicity. Family is everything and this film certainly conveyed that.

Trailer of Mahana –

Interview with Nancy Brunning

Following the screening of the film Pauline Clague interviewed the star of the film, Nancy Brunning. Brunning was delightful and was happy to answer any questions from the audience. She displayed real enthusiasm towards the film and was highly passionate about her craft. Brunning also spoke about her love for director Lee Tamahori. She said that Tamahori was a very patient director and put his heart and soul into the film.


Nancy Brunning being interviewed by Pauline Clague | Picture – Amy Johnston (2016) 

General Comments about the Night

Both Erica and I really enjoyed the screening and the Opening Night. Everything was well put together, from the beautiful brochures to the cocktail party after the film. The one thing Erica and I both commented on, was how supportive people were during the night. People were very supportive of the film and were clapping and laughing all the way through it. Following the films ending people clapped and cheered and showed their support. The atmosphere of the whole night was one of joy and celebration. 

I really hope that the WINDA Film Festival is a success this year! Indigenous films are worth celebrating, as their stories reflect elements of love, family and culture.

Please go and watch some films at the Festival!


Erica and I at the screening of Mahana (2016) | Picture – Amy Johnston (2016) 

Cover Picture Source – Film Festivals Australia (2016)


So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye… To a Bran Nue Day!

Well it has come to that time! The end of the campaign/road…! I will be packing up my swag and movin’ to the country! What is left for me in this dismal world!

Well ALOT is actually left for me… ignore my pretentious wallowing! But this is the last day of the Bran Nue Day for Indigenous film campaign! Working on this campaign has been an amazing experience, and I am so grateful I chose such an interesting topic! 

From beginning with a simple Objective (to raise awareness and promote Indigenous films in Australia) – to ending with a deep knowledge of the Indigenous film industry, I am very happy with what I have achieved! 

Some of the campaign’s major successes

  • The biggest success of the campaign was engaging and teaching students at Davidson High School! 
    • This lesson provided students with information about the Indigenous film industry, through games and hands on exercises.
    • I’m so glad that I went to Davidson, as it not only enriched the students, but it enriched my learning as well 
  • Connecting with Influencers on Twitter, was a major highlight of the campaign
    • I connected with over 126 people, many of who were industry professionals, actors, producers and studio leaders
    • Some of they key influencers that followed me includes,
    • Cinéfest Oz’ (a prestigious Australian Film Festival held in Perth) – Cinêfest have also retweeted the campaigns posts 3-4 times
    •  Luke Pearson (CEO of Indigenous X) 
    • 2SER 107.3 (A community radio station connected to UTS that has 11 200 followers!)
    • Tony Briggs (An Aboriginal producer of the upcoming television show The Warriors)
    • Tony Lomas (Ex ABC News and 7.30 Report editor)
    • WGAR News (Working Group for Aboriginal Rights: monitors alternative media, giving priority to grassroots Aboriginal voices)
    • Fiona Jose (Indigenous leader dedicated to education, reform & empowering change for Indigenous Australia) 


Bran Nue Day Twitter Page | Picture Source – Amy Johnston 2016

Thanks again to all of those who helped me along the way! Indigenous cinema is something that should be treasured in Australia, and I will continue to fight for its awareness! 

Please go out and see and experience as many Indigenous films as possible! 


Cover Picture Source – Rusty Stewart – Flickr

Nominations for the The 6th AACTA Awards – Indigenous Films well represented

On Thursday 27th October, the nominations for the 6th annual AACTA awards were announced. The AACTA’s are the most prestigious awards ceremony for film and television in Australia. This year numerous Indigenous films were nominated for many different awards. These nominations are an excellent endorsement for the Indigenous film industry, as it illustrates that Indigenous films are worth seeing and being made. 

The AACTA awards (previously the AFI Awards) was launched in 2011 by the Australian Film Institute (AFI). The primary role of AACTA is to “recognise, encourage, promote and celebrate film and television excellence in Australia through the nation’s highest screen accolades”. AACTA is overseen by AACTA President, Geoffrey Rush, and an Honorary Council comprising more than 50 of Australia’s most outstanding film and television practitioners and performers.

While the AFI Awards were previously held in December, the AACTA awards are now held in January. This change was orchestrated so that the awards would be able to sit in the ‘International Film Awards’ calendar and be recognised as an international awards ceremony. Consequently the awards are now slotted between the Golden Globes (early January) and the Academy Awards (February). 

groupCate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush and Russell Crowe at the 2013 AACTA Awards | Picture Source- Styleicons

Indigenous Nominee’s – 2016 AACTA Awards



Official Poster – Goldstone (2016) | Picture Source – IMDB Goldstone

Ivan Sen’s 2016 film ‘Goldstone‘ leads the nominations, for the most recognised Indigenous film. Goldstone follows the story of Indigenous Detective Jay Swan, who arrives in the frontier town of Goldstone on a missing persons enquiry. What seems like a simple light duties investigation opens a web of crime and corruption. Jay must pull his life together and work with the young local cop Josh, so they can bring justice to Goldstone. 

The following list are the nominations Goldstone received for the 6th AACTA Awards – 

  1. Best Film – Goldstone – Greer Simpkin, David Jowsey
  2. Best Direction – Goldstone – Ivan Sen
  3. Best original screenplay – Goldstone – Ivan Sen
  4. Best editing – Goldstone – Ivan Sen
  5. Best production design – Goldstone – Matt Putland


Alex Russell and Aaron Pederson in ‘Goldstone’ | Picture Source – SBS Ivan Sen’s ‘Goldstone’

TANNA (2015) 


Official Poster – Tanna (2015) | Picture Source – IMDB Tanna

The 2015 film Tanna is the second Indigenous film that has been recognised in the 6th AACTA Awards. The film, an Australia/Vanuatu co-production, is a Romeo and Juliet story set in one of the world’s last tribal societies. It is the first feature film shot entirely in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu.  None of the ‘cast’ had ever acted before, but they passionately and naturally re-created this real-life story from recent tribal history. Although this film is based in the Island nations and was not shot on Australian soil, it is still included in my list of Indigenous films, due to the ‘tribal’ and ‘societal’ qualities. 

The following list are the nominations Tanna received for the 6th AACTA Awards – 

  1. Best Film – Tanna – Martin Butler ADG, Bentley Dean ADG, Carolyn Johnson
  2. Best Direction – Tanna – Bentley Dean ADG, Martin Butler ADG
  3. Best cinematography – Tanna – Bentley Dean ADG
  4. Best sound – Tanna – Emma Bortignon, James Ashton, Martin Butler ADG 
  5. Best original music score – Tanna – Antony Partos AGSC


SPEAR (2015) – Honorable Mention


Official Poster – Spear (2015) | Picture Source – IMDB Spear

An honorable mention goes to the 2015 Indigenous film Spear, that received two AACTA nominations. The film received nominations for Best cinematography (Bonnie Elliott) and Best costume design (Jennifer Irwin). Spear tells a contemporary Aboriginal story through movement and dance.Featuring dancers from the highly acclaimed Bangarra Dance Theatre, this is an intimate journey that brings modern day mythology to the screen. 

The AACTA Awards main televised ceremony will be in Sydney on December 7.

Please follow this link to see ALL the nominees for the 2016 AACTA Awards –


Cover Photo Source – AACTA Homepage

Indigenous Mini Lesson – Davidson High School (Part 3 -The Games)

Welcome to the final part of my blog series, where I have recounted my journey with Davidson High School and their Mini-Lesson on Indigenous films!! In Part 3 of this Blog series I will speak about the Indigenous related ‘games’ I ran with Davidson students. 

To briefly re-cap on Part 2 of this blog series, I had already achieved two out of four of my objectives through the questions I asked and the film trailers I showed the class. The completed objectives were – 

2. Understand whether any of the students had gone to SEE an Indigenous film at the cinema

3. Talk to the students about my campaign and my research

The other two objectives were still to be achieved in my games!

The Quiz

Following the film trailers I showed the class, I told the students that they were going to participate in a quiz. The quiz was based off the two film trailers they had just watched, Bran Nue Dae and Charlie’s Country. All class members had patiently watched the trailers, so I was confident that they would be able to answer most/if all of the questions. 

I asked the students to form groups and choose a ‘group name’ based off an Indigenous film. (Quiz Instructions displayed in picture below)unspecified-12

Quiz- The Questions

As soon as I started asking the questions, the students were engaged. The boys were particularly engaged and were jumping out of their seats in excitement. Some of the questions included –

  • In ‘Charlie’s Country’ trailer, what object is taken from Charlie?

  • In a ‘Bran Nue Dae’, what song do the boys sing in the church?

  • In ‘Charlie’s Country’ what food does Charlie eat, after he throws his spear to catch food?

  • In a ‘Bran Nue Dae’, why don’t Annie and Slippery need a map?

‘The Sapphires’ ended up winning the quiz and securing the ultimate prize… Milky Ways!! The Sapphires team was actually made up of a group of boys, who were all very engaged throughout the whole game. This exercise showed me that games are one of the ways to engage young adolescents. 


Final Game – Hunger Games Activity 

For this activity, students had to pretend that they were Cast Directors of The HUNGER GAMES. However, their cast had to be made up of entirely Indigenous Actors. 
The students were shown slides with pictures of Australian Indigenous Actors on them, for casting purposes!


Students looking at the list of Indigenous Actors they can choose from- to cast in the HUNGER GAMES | Picture Source – Amy Johnston (2016)

The following slideshow shows the students working through the worksheet that I gave them. Although most of the students did not know any of the Indigenous actors that they had to cast, they fully engaged in the activity. Many of the students commented that they liked the ‘challenge’ of casting unknown actors, into the iconic Hunger Games roles.

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The students responses were excellent! While the activity was occurring I walked around the classroom and spoke to the students. The students casting choices were insightful and well thought through. All groups cast Jessica Mauboy as Katinss Everdeen, while Gale was cast as Ernie Dingo (from one group) and Luke Carroll (from another)!. 

Final Thoughts

I had SUCH an amazing time engaging and working with Davidson High School. The students were very respectful and eager to learn! I send my sincere thanks to Miss Sly’s Year 7 class for giving me their time! Although the students had not seen many Indigenous films, they were willing to LEARN! If people are willing to learn, then societies problems will change.

Final thanks goes to Miss Sly! I could not have done this lesson without her! Thank you so much for allowing me to come and talk to your wonderful class! Your passion for teaching is so inspiring and your classrooms are filled with such joy. I would also like to thank the Davidson staff for providing me with such a good education, for my six years. A particular thanks goes to my amazing Modern History teacher David Rule. Mr Rule’s passionate love for history and the world was imparted onto me. This will stay with me forever! 


Cover Picture Source | Davidson High School – Amy Johnston (2016)

Indigenous Mini Lesson – Davidson High School (Part 2 -The Lesson)

Welcome back to Part 2 of my journey with Davidson High School and their Mini-Lesson on Indigenous films!

Before coming to teach the lesson I had four main objectives that I wanted to achieve. These were –

  1. Understand the students knowledge of Indigenous films

  2. Understand whether any of the students had gone to SEE an Indigenous film at the cinema

  3. Talk to the students about my campaign and my research

  4. Educate the students about Indigenous Films in a fun and friendly way

Upon entering the classroom I was a bit nervous (I have to admit!!). While the students didn’t throw pencils and paper at me, I was a little bit intimidated to talk to a group of students that I had never met before. However once I started to teach, the students were highly respectful and patient! They didn’t even cause a fuss when my YouTube links didn’t open (which was more stressful for me- than them!!).

To begin, I told the students about my campaign and the problems associated with the issue. I then spoke about my solution and prime objective – “to raise awareness/information and promote Indigenous films in Australia.” I also told them about the three media strategies I had used and I showed them each one of the pages (Facebook, Twitter and WordPress). The students were particularly impressed with my WordPress site!

unspecified-9A Slide from my PowerPoint Presentation to Davidson High School | Picture Source – Amy Johnston (2016)

Questions asked in the Lessons

One of the most interesting parts of the lesson consisted of me asking the students a number of questions. To begin with I asked them, “What Indigenous films have you seen?”. The students responded that they had seen The Sapphires, Bran Nue Dae and Rabbit Proof Fence. All of the students had watched these films in class, under the guidance of Miss Sly.

I then asked the students, ‘Have you ever gone to the movies, to see an Indigenous film?’. Not one student in the class had seen an Indigenous film at the cinema. This fact was highly surprising to me. Even though the students are aged from 12-13, I had presumed that at least some of them would have seen an Indigenous film at the cinema. I had also presumed that some of the students parents would have taken them to see one. Only one boy in the class stated that his mother had watched The Sapphires at home. These facts substantiate my overall argument in this campaign. People are not aware or interested in Indigenous films. All members of the class were more interested in seeing films such as ‘The Hunger Games‘ and ‘Harry Potter‘ and even the film ‘Australia‘.

unspecified-10A Slide from my PowerPoint Presentation to Davidson High School | Picture Source – Amy Johnston (2016)

Further, none of the students seemed overly interested or passionate about the Indigenous films they had watched in class. Only a few of the girls exclaimed that they liked Jessica Mauboy.

This way of thinking NEED TO CHANGE.

People (from as young as 13) should have an interest in seeing or at least LEARNING about Indigenous films. The parents of teenagers should also take more of an active interest in Indigenous films, so that they can pass their knowledge onto their children. Thankfully, teachers like Miss Sly promote Indigenous films and allow children to watch it at school.

Film Trailers shown in Lesson

Following the questions, I showed the students the Bran Nue Dae trailer and Charlie’s Country trailer. I asked the students to pay close attention to the trailers, as they were going to have to complete a quiz after watching them. The students were respectful and attentive when watching the trailers. I was particularly impressed with the way they handled Charlie’s Country trailer, as most of it is spoken in an Indigenous language!

img_1704img_1706Students watching the Film Trailers | Picture Source – Amy Johnston (2016)

Please stay tuned for the FINAL part of my Blog, where I will speak about the games I played with students from Davidson High School!


Cover Picture Source | Davidson High School – Amy Johnston (2016)

Indigenous Mini Lesson – Davidson High School (Part 1 -Background and Hubs)

On Monday 17th October, I visited Davidson High School (a hub). As a part of this campaign, we had to engage with ‘external hubs’. A ‘hub’ is an influential organisation or group within a specific industry (Krebs & Holley 2013). For example, within the Indigenous Film Industry a ‘hub’ would be The Australian Council for the Arts or Screen Australia. Both of those organisations are dominant leaders and have a lot of power in the industry. A hub can also be any other organisation that carries influence, such as a school, a blog or an online campaign (Krebs & Holley 2013).

Throughout the campaign I had to find hubs that were willing to become involved with my issue (Krebs & Holley 2013). For this reason, I approached Davidson High School. Davidson is located in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and is a Public High School from Years 7-12. Davidson is particularly known for their ‘Performing Arts’ and ‘English Department’. While the school does not specialise in Indigenous film, many of the English teachers have a very good knowledge about the films.


Warwick Thornton directing a three-minute film for Tourism Australia | Picture Source – Australia’s Indigenous tourism offering (Tourism Australia)

From 2008-2013 I was a student at Davidson High School. The school was a wonderful place to be educated, as I came away with a deep passion for English and History. While I attended Davidson I watched a number of Indigenous films in my English classes. I was fortunate enough to watch Ivan Sen’s ‘Beneath Clouds‘ (2002) during one of these classes. My passion for Indigenous films started from this viewing.


Me at Davidson (I’m the one on the far left…) | Picture Source- Amy Johnston

Once I had decided that my campaign was going to be about Indigenous films, I approached my old teacher Eleana Sly (or Miss Sly too me… :p). I asked her whether I would be able to come to the school and teach a ‘mini-lesson’ on Indigenous films. The lesson would educate students about Indigenous films and culture. Miss Sly was incredibly helpful and said that she was happy for me to run a lesson with her Year 7 class! 

Before coming I taught the lesson at the school, Miss Sly showed her Year 7 students the films, ‘The Sapphires’ (2012), ‘Bran Nue Dae’ (2009) and ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ (2002). Consequently, most students had a good base knowledge on Indigenous films, making it easier for me to guide them through my presentation. The students had also undertaken a research task on an Australian Indigenous actor and a Australian Indigenous director. Miss Sly went above and beyond to help me and prepare the students for my presentation. I am beyond grateful to her! 


Bran Nue Dae (2009) Poster | Picture Source- Roger Ebert (Bran Nue Dae Review)

I must say, when I was preparing my slides last weekend I was quite nervous! I hadn’t been back to my High School for three years and I was teaching a Year 7 class!! Aren’t Year 7 meant to be a full on year?? However, once I worked out what I was going to talk to the students about, all my worries disappeared and I was excited! 

PLEASE continue to read Part 2 and Part 3 of my Blog, about my journey with Davidson High School and their Mini-Lesson on Indigenous Films!


Cover Picture Source | Davidson High School – Amy Johnston (2016)

Indigenous Series: Indigenous Television Shows

Today is the second post dedicated to the ‘Indigenous Series’! While this campaign is focused on promoting Indigenous films,  Indigenous Television plays a big part in the Australian film and entertainment industry.
National Indigenous Television Channel (NITV)
Indigenous television shows came into prominence in 2007, as the National Indigenous Television Channel (NITV) was established. NITV is a channel ‘made by, for and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.’ While the channel is primarily catered towards Indigenous Australians, it is also directed towards a non-Indigenous audience. NITV mostly commissions or seeks content from the Indigenous production sector. It also hosts the only daily national news program, that covers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island stories.
NITV News – On Nightly | For More Information Visit –
How to view NITV
NITV is available to view in 95% of Australians homes. You can view the programs on NITV through free-to-air and a number of additional platforms, such as Foxtel and Austar (Channel 144), TransACT, FreeView and VAST (Viewer Access Satellite Television).
Redfern Now 
Redfern Now | Picture SourceABC TV (Redfern Now)
In 2012 the Indigenous television show ‘Redfern Now’ was screened on ABC TV. It was the first drama series written, directed and produced by Indigenous Australians.The series told a number of stories about Indigenous Australians living in the Sydney suburb of Redfern. The first series was directed by Indigenous stars- Rachel Perkins (Mabo, Bran Nue Dae) and Catriona McKenzie (Satellite Boy), and Wayne Blair (The Sapphires, Wish You Were Here).
Cleverman | Picture SourceMTN Wiki (Cleverman-English TV Show Series)
In June of this year, Cleverman was screened on ABC TV. The show reimagines several stories of the Aboriginal Dreamtime. However, there is a twist! The show is set in the near future and focuses on a group of non-humans battling for survival, amongst creatures from ancient mythology. The show stars Hunter Page-Lochard (as KOEN WEST) – one of two Indigenous brothers who are forced together to fight for their survival!
The show has been received very well and has aired on the Sundance Channel in the US. Rotten Tomatoes gave the season a rating of 88% (which is very good!!).
The Warriors
In 2017 a new Indigenous comedy series will screen on ABC! The TV show titled ‘THE WARRIORS’ is set in the world of Australian Rules Football. The show explores the elite world of professional sport, as seen through the eyes of two two new players and two established team members.
The lead member of the cast, 18 year old Gordan Churchill will make his acting debut as Maki. Churchill was found in the remote Indigenous community of Warmun in the Kimberley Region.
This show is a fabulous endorsement for Indigenous Film and Television in Australia! Many of the creatives are some of the countries finest Indigenous talent, including series creator Tony Briggs (The Sapphires) and Catriona McKenzie (The Circuit, Redfern Now).