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)


Australians knowledge of Indigenous Films

Prior to beginning this campaign, our team created a survey on Indigenous films in Australia. Other than the facts and figures provided by organisations such as Screen Australia and the Australia Council for the Arts, we did not know how many people in Australia were aware of Indigenous films. As the point of this campaign is to ‘promote’ Indigenous films, we felt that we should obtain some core data of our own and assess people’s knowledge.

For this reason, the survey sought to measure the amount of people that knew about Australian Indigenous films and other cultural events. 40 people were interviewed, ranging in age from 18-75 years. There was an even amount of male and female participants.

Some of the Key Questions were –

  1. Have you watched/gone to the cinema to see any Australian Indigenous films?

  2. From the list below, please select the Australian Indigenous films you have seen (Over 30 Indigenous films were listed)

  3. Did you know that in 2014, Indigenous actor David Gulpilil won the Un Certain Regard Award for ‘Best Actor’ at the Cannes Film Festival?


Findings from Survey

The findings from the survey were incredibly interesting and our team spent a long time going over the results (I was a bit obsessed with the data… but I love anything to do with facts and figures, so this is probably why ;).

The survey found that individuals in the 45-64 age category, had the greatest amount of knowledge on Aboriginal films. These people had seen the most Indigenous films and were aware of some Indigenous cultural events. These same individuals had seen some of the more obscure Aboriginal films such as Mad Bastards (2011) and Stone Bros. (2009). 

While this demographic had a strong base knowledge of Indigenous films, the survey found that they were not imparting any of their knowledge to the younger generations. Over 50% of participants aged 40- 75 years stated that they would be happy to watch an Indigenous film (Refer to Question 8). However, none of these same participants stated that they had taken their children to see an Indigenous film. It was therefore decided that our campaign would help to raise awareness towards the youth demographic, to compensate for the lack information received from their parents.


Audiences to Target

The target audience for this campaign is men and women aged between 18-35 years, particularly university students and graduate employees. Based on the survey data, these individuals had only seen 1 to 3 Indigenous films. Of the 17 youth interviewed, the most prominent film that had been watched was ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ (Noyce 2002) (Refer to Question 5). Further, individuals in this demographic had never heard about any form of Indigenous award ceremony (Refer to Question 7).

picture4pngpicture2The Survey provided some fascinating details and allowed us to work out our target audiences and target objectives!

Survey Reference – Johnston, A, 2016, ‘Indigenous Films in Australia’, SurveyMonkey, accessed 19th August 2016,

Cover Photo Scott Johnston (2016)

Indigenous Series: Director, Ivan Sen (Beneath Clouds)

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’s Background


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

Things NOT to do at the Cinema!

Today we thought that we would explore ‘Cinema Etiquette’! Going to the cinema is an exciting and special event! People take this practice very seriously!

Let us set the scene…. You walk into a dark and foreboding room. The only light you can see spills from a large screen hanging from the wall. You take you seat and nestle into one of the big, comfy chairs. You sip your cool, cup of lemonade and enjoy the sweet taste of the bubbles. Your eyes are filled with the wonders from the screen… Everything seems endless!

THEN you hear a crunch, a rustle, a rip and a SLURP! 

Your life begins to slowly unravel….. Something has disrupted your idyllic cinema experience!


Photo by – Jeremy Brooks – Flickr

Being disrupted during a film is highly irritating! The crunch of popcorn, the rustle of a packet of chips, the rip of a M&Ms packet and the slurp of a large frozen coke, can send cinema goers into a frantic state! Let us not forget the hopelessly devoted couple who only look at each other, NOT the screen. Not only are these things distracting, but it disrupts the flow of a film!











The Inseparable Movie Couple… Photo by – Diadà – Flickr Australian Indigenous Films are often very quiet and subtle. They have a lot of stillnesses and silences. The 2009 film ‘Samson and Delilah’ (Warwick Thornton) is a highly visual story. Even though the two characters do not speak that often, the story is told through their facial expressions, the film score and the landscape. Films like this require silence in the cinema!

In 2012 UK cinema chain Empire Cinemas, put together a poll and asked people ‘what they found most annoying about watching movies in cinemas’. The poll, which comprised of 1,500 people, found  52 per cent of people were annoyed by people talking. This was the most annoying thing identified by film goers.

The second item on the poll found that 25% of people found loud rustling, crunching and drink slurping a major gripe.  Other top irritations include people playing on their mobile phones, putting their feet up on the chairs and having the plot ruined by social media.

Please look at the Video10 Most Annoying Things People Do At A Movie Theater

One of the most interesting statistics that came out of the poll was that 85% of people said that they would like to see an official cinema code of conduct introduced, to keep the bad behaviour of customers in check. This statistic surprised us, as we believed that people didn’t care THAT much if people were rude. We think a ‘cinema code of conduct’ should be put into place, as people would then be more respectful at the cinema.

People don’t realise that a few hundred people have worked on the film they are seeing. Thousands upon thousands of hours have been devoted towards that picture. People should therefore respect that process and be silent in the cinema!

Please enjoy The Empire Cinemas Etiquette Guide



Cover Photo by – Kristof De Smet – Flickr