Today is our first post dedicated to the ‘Indigenous Series’! This series will explore Indigenous directors, actors, films and TV Shows. The goal for this series is to promote Indigenous films and show how the Aboriginal film industry has interesting stories to tell and unique films to see.
The first person explored in our Indigenous Series, is the Indigenous director Ivan Sen. His 2002 film ‘Beneath Clouds’ will also be explored in detail. Sen is one of Australia’s most prolific filmmakers. Internationally renown, his films have been shown around the world at Festivals such as –
- Cannes Film Festival
- Sundance Film Festival
- Toronto International Film Festival
- Berlin International Film Festival
- London Film Festival
- Sydney Film Festival
- Melbourne International Film Festival
Sen is one of Australia’s auteur filmmakers. His films are breathtakingly beautiful, as they are able to capture the magic and spirit of modern-day Indigenous people.
Sen on the set of his film Dreamland in the Nevada desert (2011) – Picture Source: Peter Robb, The Monthly, ‘Dreamland- A Journey through north-western NSW with Ivan Sen’
Sen grew up in Coledale, Tamworth, a town in regional New South Wales. Coledale was one of the first public housing areas in Tamworth, and many Indigenous people lived there. Sen stated that Coledale was ‘kind of segregated from the rest of the town back then’, thus making him feel isolated and alone. Sen also dealt with high crime and drugs rates when he was growing up. While this may sound shocking to us, Sen said that he had ‘been faced by all these things all my life…’ He stresses that he no longer feels sadness about these issues, but instead wants to address these things in his films.
One of Sen’s positive experiences of living in Coledale was going to the cinema. Sen commented that ‘The local cinema was a long walk from here, but every few weeks we had the money and we would go through the other side of town across the railway tracks…’ The first film he saw was Peter Weir’s magnificent film ‘Gallipoli’ (1981). As an eight-year old boy Sen was moved to tears and was emotionally effected by it.
A Selection of Sen’s Films
Beneath Clouds (2002)
Beneath Clouds (2002) Poster – Picture Source: IMP Awards – Beneath Clouds Poster
Beneath Clouds was Sen’s first feature film and was critically acclaimed both nationally and internationally. The films two actors had never acted before and were discovered by Sen. Dannielle Hall (Lena) was found in a video clip made by students at Tamworth TAFE and her co-star Damian Pitt (Vaughn) signed up after Sen spotted him on a street in Moree.
Beneath Clouds tells the story of two disenfranchised teenagers who are looking to escape their worlds. Lena (Dannielle Hall) rejects her Indigenous family and longs for her Irish father, while Vaughn (Damian Pitt) has been aged by the prison system and is angry at the white world. These two complex characters come together and hitchhike to Sydney to find identity and freedom.
Vaughn (Damian Pitt) and Lena (Dannielle Hall) in Beneath Clouds – Picture Source: Beneath Clouds Picture
The film went on to win numerous awards and be screened at numerous film festivals including –
- Berlin International Film Festival (WON – Beneath Clouds – Piper Heidsieck New Talent Award – Dannielle Hall – International Competition)
- Berlin International Film Festival (WON – Beneath Clouds – Premiere First Movie Award – Ivan Sen – International Competition)
- Sundance Film Festival (SCREENED – Native Forum – Beneath Clouds)
- International Film Festival Rotterdam (SCREENED – Tracking Time – Beneath Clouds)
Sen also won ‘Best Direction’ at the 2002 Australian Film Institute (AFI) awards.
Sen’s Films continued…
Sen has continued to make films that promote and shed light on Indigenous issues in Australia! Some of these films include – Yellow Fella (2005), Toomelah (2011), Mystery Road (2013) and his latest film Goldstone (2016).
Cover Photo Source – Toomelah Official Website