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Ivan Sen on being an artist

By Sista Girl Productions, 2009 3:08 minutes

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Sen suggests that developing as an artist involves deepening one’s sensitivity to the world and that this can become an end in itself. He observes that while Indigenous filmmaking is diverse and covers many genres, it is difficult for anything other than Indigenous ‘arthouse’ films to find an audience. Because of the small number of Indigenous films made and the limited distribution that they receive, many people in the broader community never see any films made by Indigenous filmmakers. Sen believes that as the quantity of Indigenous films being made increases, their impact will be much greater, but he points out that the decisions about which Indigenous film projects get funding are still made by non-Indigenous bureaucrats. If Indigenous filmmakers are to become truly independent, they will need to get to the point where they can generate their own funding.

Collection Blak Wave


Discussion Points

Sen makes a valid point about the pigeon-holing of Indigenous films. While a particular kind of Indigenous ‘arthouse’ film can rely to an extent on an established
niche audience, genre films often struggle because they do not fulfil certain preconceived expectations.

  • Do you think the attention paid to films like Rachel Perkins’ Bran Nue Dae (2009) and Richard Frankland’s Stone Brothers (2009), each of which were screened in cinemas on general release, is an indication that audiences are becoming more open to different styles of Indigenous filmmaking?

Sen is one of a number of Indigenous filmmakers who anticipate that the Indigenous film industry has a very healthy future. However, he is frustrated that the funding
of Indigenous films depends on decisions made by non-Indigenous people.

  • Research the funding arrangements in place for Indigenous filmmakers. Begin by visiting the website of Screen Australia, which is the Commonwealth Government body supporting Australian film, television and digital media makers. The publication Dreaming in Motion celebrates the work of the Australian Film Commission’s Indigenous Branch and the achievements of the filmmakers it has supported (note: the AFC has now merged into Screen Australia).