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Rachel Perkins on the power of filmmaking

By Sista Girl Productions, 2009 4:25 minutes

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Rachel Perkins finds filmmaking rewarding because it engages the filmmaker on so many different levels and requires a diverse range of skills and knowledge. Perkins also uses filmmaking as a political tool for teaching non-Indigenous audiences about Indigenous culture and contributing to the maintenance of Indigenous culture.

Films can help people to develop understanding and empathy by allowing them to see the world from another perspective. However, as well as engaging with film’s potential for representing an Indigenous point of view, Indigenous filmmakers are motivated by the craft of filmmaking itself, and will increasingly want to tell a broader range of stories and work in other contexts. Perkins’ first feature film, Radiance (1998), featured three Indigenous actors in the main roles, and Indigenous filmmaker Warwick Thornton was the cinematographer. The film was not specifically about Indigenous identity, but issues of culture, history and identity underpinned the story.

Collection Blak Wave

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Discussion Points

Rachel Perkins stresses the capacity for film to develop understanding and empathy in its audiences and the importance of Indigenous film in representing an Indigenous point of view. Yet Perkins’ first feature film, Radiance, downplayed the ‘Indigenousness’ of her three main characters.

  • Must a film be explicitly about Indigenous issues to say something about Indigenous identity?

Sue Gillett has written of Radiance that Perkins resists the tendency for stories about Indigenous people to be categorised within a single framework by highlighting the importance of the characters as women while not making their Indigenous identity irrelevant.

  • Read Gillett’s article, which presents an excellent summary of other discussions and assumptions about Radiance. Consider Catherine Simpson’s question: “Is it possible…to disregard the socio-political implications of the fact that this is a story appropriated and directed by an Aboriginal woman about Aboriginal women – a highly significant event in itself?”