Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Maybe I'll be a First Australians Groupie

I really loved The First Australians on SBS.   I finished watching the seventh and last episode on Sunday.

I liked watching it on my computer because I could frequently pause it and look up things.   I liked getting more information on the situations mentioned, and the people being interviewed.

I didn't dig deep though because I wanted to get back to the video.   But now that I'm done with the watching, I can do more digging. is some information about the people in the video, and also about some people behind the scenes.  

Rachel Perkins: According to Lord Wiki, she's the producer, writer, director, AND....narrator of the series.  

This article from ABC has some outdated but valuable information.    It says Perkins is an Arrente woman from east of Alice Springs.   Her father was an advocate for Indigenous rights.   He was part of the Freedom Ride of 1964-1965.

Rachel started working in television when she was eighteen.

She then moved to Sydney and produced and directed the documentary series Blood Brothers and a children's program called Manyu Wanna.

In 1993, she established her own production company and named it Blackfellas Films.  If you watched The First Australians and paid attention to the credits, you probably recognize this name.  

Besides documentaries, she has made a few feature films including Radiance and One Night the Moon.

She has won awards and I'm impressed with her.  If I was important and had awards to give out, I'd definitely give one to her too.

Her next film will be an adaption of the musical Bran Nue Day.  It stars Geoffrey Rush and will also feature Missy Higgins.   I'm excited about this.    Have any of you seen this musical before?

Darren Dale:  He's the co-producer of The First Australians.   He's openly gay and handsome.  Go here if you want to see a photo--sorry, not a nude one.  

Oh okay.  I was wondering why the article announced his sexuality.   It turns out that I'm looking at a gay magazine online.  Now it makes sense.

He worked for SBS, and then Rachel Perkins contacted him and offered him to take part in the film.

Here's something interesting.   The finished masterpiece owes a bit to American documentary star Ken Burns.    It seems he told them what they had so far was boring.   It was his idea to put the series in chronological order (rather than making each episode center around a theme) and concentrate on stories about individuals.  

Marcia Langton:  She is the historian who seemed to be interviewed the most through out the series.  And not that I usually notice or care about these things, but she had her hair cut between episode one and two.  

Her hair is less important than her history and career.   I was just impressed with myself for noticing.  I'm usually like a man when it comes to noticing haircuts.

Langton is a professor at the University of Melbourne.   Her official job title, according to the University of Melbourne's website, is Foundation Professor of Australian Indigenous Studies.

She has an extremely impressive resume including

1. Anthropologist in Indigenous Affairs (this alone is enough to impress me actually)

2. Member of the Centre for Aboriginal Reconciliation

3. Director of the Centre for Indigenous Natural and Cultural Resource Management.

Lord Wiki says Langston grew up in Queensland.  She's a descendant of the Yiman and Bidjara people.  
She has lived in Papua New Guinea, Japan, and North America.   Maybe she was my neighbor!  I wonder why it says North America, but doesn't give the specific country.  

One of her crusades is reducing alcohol use in Indigenous communities.  

She's on the Australian Public Intellectual Network's list of top forty intellectuals.  Guess who else is on their?   My hero....Peter Singer!    So is Robert Hughes.  I'm still reading his book.   It seems to be taking me forever.    Oh, but crap.   They also have Keith Windschuttle.   Why do they have him their list?   For those who don't know what I'm talking about, he's the one who wrote the book saying the atrocities against the Aboriginal Tasmanians were exaggerated.

Oh well.  I guess you can be smart AND an asshole.   Yeah yeah.  I know also that it's a matter of opinion.   One person's asshole may be another person's hero.  

Langton herself is a bit controversial--something to do with mining.   I don't quite get it.  It goes a bit over my little head.  

The Sydney Morning Herald has their own list of intellectuals.   Langton comes in at number twenty-one   Peter Singer comes in second.   Go Peter!   Robert Manne is first.  I've never heard of him.   I'll have to look the guy up later.

Windschuttle is NOT on that list.   Thank you!

Feminist Germain Greer is third on the list.  Langton called her a racist.   Author John Birmingham (who has a fun blog) also made some negative remarks about Greer.   I have to admit that I find all this fighting between famous intellectual Australians extremely interesting. It's almost as good as reading Harry Potter.  

Gordan Briscoe-Briscoe was another historian that was interviewed for the documentary.   If you don't remember him, go to this website and maybe his photo will jog your memory.  

He has done work in the study of half caste children.   He was born in Alice Springs and if I'm reading this correctly; he was one of the stolen children.  

This is getting long so I'm going to fast forward a bit, and well....skip a lot of people.   Sorry.

For the rest of this entry, I'll just talk about the episode that I found the most moving.   It was the fifth one, titled an Unhealthy Government Experiment.   I get goosebumps just thinking about it.    The title alone is fantastic.   Such a chilling understatement.    What it refers to is a statement made by the sexiest star of the documentary--Steve Kinnane.   Uh no, I don't have a crush on him or anything.  

Kinnane summarizes the atrocities experienced by these stolen children and their families.  Then he says calmly In that way I think it can only be seen as an unhealthy government experiment.    That scene, to me, is about as haunting as the red coat scene in Schindler's List.

I think it's close to impossible to watch that episode without crying.   It's probably worse if you have children of your own.  

Okay, let's look at Kinnane.

Steve Kinanne-Oh wow.  This website gives out his email address and his phone number!   If I wasn't married and I wasn't shy, I'd totally be emailing him.  

Okay, I'll stop treating the guy like a piece of meat.   Let's get to the important stuff.  He's a writer and researcher.   He wrote a book called Shadow Lines.  It won awards.   He was born in Perth and is a descendent of the Miriwooong people.   His grandmother was a stolen child.   He has a very sexy accent.

Ursula Yovich-Yovich has a fairly small part in The First Australians, but in my opinion she was very significant.   She did the voice acting for the role of Gladys Gilligan.   Gilligan's story of being a stolen child was at the center of the fifth episode.   It's Yovich who reads aloud Gilligan's pleading letters to the child-snatcher A O Neville.  Neville, by the way, is the character that Kenneth Branagh portrayed in Rabbit Proof Fence.

Yovich can be seen in the upcoming movie Australia, although I have no idea how big of a role she will have.   She was also in a movie my mom saw recently--Jindabyne.

She's also a singer and theater actress.   She starred in the musical The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and Little Ragged Blossom.   It's based on a children's book....looks cute.  

Yovich is a graduate of the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts.   I like her.   Well, at least I like her voice.   I hope she finds great success and we hear more from her.  

Let me conclude by saying that The First Australians is amazing.   I think it should win an Oscar.   I'm wondering if it would qualify.   Would they submit the whole series for consideration or just individual episodes?

I hope they submit something because I never see anything that's nominated and the Academy Awards end up being so boring to me.   At least, if they're in the race, I'll have someone to cheer for.

P.S-I think watching The First Australians made the Obama win even more meaningful to me.   I know it's not all about  the color of our skin.    But I think the fact that he won shows that most Americans are no longer pathologically racist.    And Obama didn't just win in America.  According to Internet polls, he pretty much won in every country.    The feelings I had last night as I watched television reminded me of the feelings I had on Sorry Day.   It's a mixture of tears, smiles, and a huge sigh of relief.   There's this idea that maybe we're actually  going to be okay--or at least better than before.