WARNING: this article may contain names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
After almost a century of silence as a creative voice in screen culture, Indigenous filmmakers, within a generation, became a vibrant presence in the centre of filmmaking in Australia. Liz McNiven explores the short but significant move from being in front of to behind the camera.
In a relatively short space of time, Australian films have jumped from depicting Indigenous peoples through racist clichés to Indigenous creatives using film and television to document their cultures, promote social change and to entertain, thus entering the mainstream. This is highlighted by critical and box-office hits such as Samson and Delilah (Dir. Warwick Thornton, 2009) and Bran Nue Dae (Dir. Rachel Perkins, 2009), which deal with complex Indigenous issues and feature Aboriginal actors and characters.
This reshaping of a cultural landscape and determined shift for Australian cinema’s national identity came about through a gradual reframing of Indigenous rights within the Australian legal system, combined with government support for the development of Indigenous filmmakers.