Solid sisters screen festival on tour

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Jenny Fraser and Michelle Blakeney. Image supplied

supplied by dot ayu 22 September 2015


he works of local and international Indigenous women screen-makers were screened for an exciting night celebrating their unique and valuable contributions to screen culture worldwide. The SOLID SCREEN Festival featured Queensland Murri screen-makers along that of others from around the country and Native Canadian and Maori

interdisciplinary practitioners from artforms such as animation, performance art, documentary, theatre and digital storytelling arts backgrounds. The event, which was free to the public, is a consolidation to the field of Indigenous Women Screen Makers and is also a reciprocal gift the local Far North Queensland community. cyberTribe is marking the 15th anniversary of exhibitions and events and SOLID SCREEN Festival has been shaped to showcase and enhance the local,

national and international wealth of creative talent in the variety of artforms made by and for the screen. The SOLID SCREEN Festival focuses on the professional development and cultural safety of women, and it is appropriate that it is held in September, to mark the Seven Sisters Dreaming, the star formation that is in the sky at this time of the year. The Seven Sisters is a popular Aboriginal Dreaming story based on a constellation known to other cultures as well,

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like Matariki for Maori, Subaru in Japan, Pleiades to the Greeks and Madoo’asinug is the constellation of the seven sweating stones or “seven sisters” for Anishnawbe. This story reminds us that having a group of women who support and encourage, can help to persevere during times of stress. The SOLID Screen Festival thanks goodness for the sisterhood. SOLID SCREEN Festival director Jenny Fraser says the Far North Queensland region needs a lot of work to grow the Indigenous Screen Industry, and sees the event as a great opportunity for those Indigenous practitioners interested in exploring screen based mediums of expression. She says the event will also highlight some pertinent issues for women screen-makers; “Its a great way to spread the word about Indigenous Womens contributions to screen culture, which is often hidden or takes a back seat in supporting the work of the male dominated industry”. Those screening works on the night included Darlene Johnson, who has offered her iconic short film titled Two Bob Mermaid. Along with Murri practitioners attending, Koori screen maker Michelle Blakeney travelled from New South Wales to introduce her work A Lot of Lost Survivors for the event. There were also some introductions done by skype from Penny Evans in Lismore, for her film The Ab-Sorption Method, and from Ariel Smith in Canada for her music video called Target Girls. Fraser founded cyberTribe online gallery, which is marking the 15th anniversary of exhibitions and events this year. cyberTribe is an unfunded online gallery focused on nurturing digital and experimental art, and has been at the forefront of exhibiting cutting edge and politically important artworks and first hand statements from Indigenous Artists internationally, both online and in other gallery spaces across the

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world. Over the years, cyberTribe has brought together Indigenous and other artists from places across Australasia, the Pacific, the Americas and elsewhere to participate in exhibitions of international standing. Also launching on the night as a new digital strategy for cyberTribe this year, a new online TV channel has been created for 24/7 broadcasting and access internationally, with Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander screen culture at the centre. Titled it is a new home grown initiative to strategically branch out in a new direction. With a particular focus on the promotion and development of screen culture, this will be a place to access documentation and archives from screenings and events, such as video and photos from the recent Fringe Dwellers commemorative screening and BLAK RELEASE, both held in Cairns , which is usually a place left off the screen culture map. This year SOLID SCREEN Festival was a pre-conference event for The Tropics of the Imagination Conference, which is a multidisciplinary conference on imaginative and creative approaches to culture and nature in the tropics. The screening took place at The Cairns Institute, Smithfield Campus, Far North Queensland. Kicking off the tour on Wednesday 16 September, the SOLID SCREEN Festival also featured the SOLID Awards for Indigenous women in Screen, to value women with long-standing and also emerging careers in the screen arts both in Australia and overseas. The aim is to honour women who have long standing and emerging careers in the variety of roles that make up the Screen Arts, those who have cut a track here and overseas. This is an important way of acknowledging historically significant contributions over the

past 30 - 40 years and also a very rare opportunity to celebrate the current outstanding practice offered by Indigenous Women Screenmakers. This is the second year of the SOLID SCREEN Awards and categories this year include Historically SOLID Screen Trail Blazer, SOLID Contribution to Photo Media, SOLID Screen Storyteller, SOLID Screen Artist, SOLID Screen Curator, SOLID Screen Festival Director and SOLID Arts Leadership. The 2015 Historically SOLID Screen Trail Blazer is a posthumous Award that goes to Koori film maker Essie Coffey who, in 1978 made My Survival as an Aboriginal, which she gave to Queen Elizabeth II as a gift at the opening of Australia’s new Parliament House in 1988. The film rocked Australia and the world with its presentation of atrocities and hardships committed against Aboriginal people. It delves beneath surface appearances to reveal a strong resistance to assimilation and loss of identity, as the late Essie Coffey, a Murrawarri woman, takes us into the Aboriginal struggle for survival. She documented the effect of dispossession, the chronic depression, alcoholism, deaths in custody and poverty that were so much a part of life for Aboriginal people. The sequel, My Life As I Live It, was released in 1993. Coffey also appeared in the film Backroads and in her later years, Essie developed renal failure and became the subject of the film Big Girls Don’t Cry, by Aboriginal filmmaker Darren Ballangarri. She passed away on January 3rd, 1998. Other SOLID Award winners for 2015 are Koori photographer Barbara McGrady who is a Gamilaroi Murri yinah (woman) from the north west of NSW and Southern Queensland. A Sydney based photographer, Barbara’s images tell the story of contemporary Aboriginal history through her unique sociological

eye. Barbara describes herself as an observer and a protagonist - a ‘documentarian’ of historical events that are important to Aboriginal culture and people. A SOLID Screen Maker Award goes to Nanobah Becker who is a member of the Navajo Nation and received a BA in Anthropology from Brown University. She spent several years working with Native youth both at the Navajo Nation and in Albuquerque at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute before deciding to pursue filmmaking, and is now currently living and working in Los Angeles, California. Another SOLID Screen Maker Award goes to Tracy Rector a Seminole/Choctaw film maker based in Seattle. Tracy earned her Masters in Education from Antioch University’s First Peoples Program. She specialized in Native American Studies, traditional plant medicine and documentary film.

Michelle Blakeney at The Cairns Institute

As the producer and director of many award-winning films Tracy has developed an awareness and sensitivity to the power of media and film as a modern storytelling tool. Maori actress Rena Owen will receive the SOLID Contribution to Screen Culture Award, as she became one of New Zealand’s most successful and recognizable Actors on the international film platform following her performance as Beth Heke in Once Were Warriors and for the last 10 years, Rena has extensively toured the International Film Festival circuit to promote various Films, and also to serve on Festival Juries. She has also served as a Consultant for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. The SOLID Arts Leadership Award goes to Screen Womens advocate Whetu Fala also from Aotearoa New Zealand, who has produced, directed and edited, hundreds of hours of television, including drama, documentaries,

reality series and short films in Aōtearoa New Zealand since getting her start at Television NZ in 1988. The SOLID SISTERS have been invited to screen in Mexico for the Festival de Cine y Video Kayche’ Tejidos Visuales held in Merida, Yucatan from September 27 - October 3. Jenny Fraser will travel to Mexico, and also onto Hawaii to present the SOLID SCREEN Festival tour to Honolulu to be hosted by Hawai’i Women in Filmmaking in mid October, then onto Aotearoa New Zealand to present at Healing Our Spirit Worldwide in November, which she will be filming for a documentary about SOLID SCREEN. “The support for the SOLID SISTERS from overseas has been truly overwhelming and we are truly excited and humbled to be able to share the SOLID love and grow the idea internationally” said Jenny Fraser.

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