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Barbican Cinema is proud to present Homeland: Films by Australian First Nations directors which explores a thrilling selection of seven of the very best movies by Indigenous Australian filmmakers from the last three decades, including ScreenTalks and guest speakers.

Despite an extraordinary range of exciting films by Indigenous Australian directors being made every year, very few are released in the UK. Homeland: Films by Australian First Nations directors celebrates some of these great filmmakers – including Leah Purcell, Stephen Page, Rachel Perkins, Warwick Thornton, Larissa Behrendt, Tracey Moffatt, and Wayne Blair - whose works embrace a variety of genres, including westerns, film noirs, horror movies and dance films.

Themes of displacement and marginalisation as well as resilience and humour surface in many of the films, which showcase Indigenous Australians’ rich cultural heritage through documentaries and feature films starring many of the country’s greatest actors. Homeland: Films by Australian First Nations directors is presented as part of the UK/Australia Season 2021-22, a major programme of cultural exchange taking place across the two nations. Curated by the Barbican in partnership with Screen Australia. With thanks to Penny Smallacombe and Savannah Glynn-Braun (First Nations Department, Screen Australia).

Homeland: Films by First Nations Australian directors opens with the European Premiere of Leah Purcell’s directorial debut The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson, a fierce, feminist Australian revenge western, which the director adapted from her own play of Henry Lawson’s 19th century short story. Leah Purcell, in the lead role, gives a tremendous performance as Molly Johnson, a pregnant woman left to fend for herself in her ranch in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. An escaped Indigenous Australian convict (Rob Collins) turns up on her door, triggering a thrilling tale that explores racism and misogyny under colonial rule.

Two films in the season, Spear and Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra focus on the work of the iconic Indigenous Australian dance company, the Bangarra Dance Theatre. First Nations stories, past and present, are evoked through movement and dance in Stephen Page’s directorial debut Spear, an extraordinary Indigenous dance film from the Bangarra Dance Theatre director. Moments of Indigenous Australian history are reflected and interpreted through the medium of dance, with a teenage boy in Sydney (Hunter Page-Lochard, the director’s son) as a witness.

Bold, visionary and unique, I can’t wait to see them on the big screen.

The history of Bangarra Dance Theatre is told in Wayne Blair’s and Nel Minchin’s Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra through glorious archive footage, and testaments from dancers and creative talents, past and present. The Bangarra Dance Theatre, now over 30 years old, revolutionised the Australian dance scene, and was taken to even greater heights through the success of three First Nations brothers – Stephen (the current artistic director), David and Russell Page. Through a series of remarkable dance shows, such as Fish, Rites, Blak and Bennelong, clips of which are seen throughout, the company was transformed into a First Nations hive of creative brilliance, culminating in the lavish spectacle of the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney the film champions the importance of art as a medium for social change and healing.

Homeland: The Films of Australian First Nations directors includes two powerful documentaries by Warwick Thornton and Larissa Behrendt. In the provocative documentary We Don’t Need a Map, Warwick Thornton considers the spiritual meaning of the Southern Cross constellation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Southern Cross constellation is one of the most familiar symbols in Australia, which has been claimed and appropriated by many groups, including racist nationalists, since colonisation. For Indigenous Australian people, it is a symbol with profound resonance. In this scorching essay film, edited from over 70 hours of footage, Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah, Sweet Country) explores the cultural roots of the constellation and its position in Australian culture.

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