The unique power of Australia’s Bangarra Dance Theatre, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performing arts organisation, fuels this artful documentary by Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
Rising from humble beginnings in a big, Aboriginal, suburban Brisbane family, there were once three beautiful brothers known as the holy trinity: Stephen, the responsible one; David, with the mischievous twinkle in his eye; and Russell, the mercurial, physical one. They became Sydney’s darlings of the Australian contemporary dance scene in the 90s.
This documentary shares the language of urban blackfellas growing up in their creative backyard, who discover that connection to culture and Country is not often innate. We see the bristling cultural upheaval of the 1967 constitutional referendums to the 1988 Australia Bicentenary, the 1992 Paul Keaton Redfern speech to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Over this time, the stripping and gutting of Aboriginal land and culture, the breakdown of the bloodline, comes to a turning point.
From the establishment of the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) in 1975 as a full-time training programme for Indigenous dancers to the formation of the renowned Bangarra Dance Theatre in 1989, art, dance and music prove to be the perfect medicine, maintained and restructured by the brothers to keep their Dreaming alive. Building bridges through dance allows trauma to carry beneath the mainstream stage. Their voices shake with grief, trapped in a cycle of repressing memories while sustaining cultural activism as fire in the belly.
The mix of nostalgic home videos, archival dance material and collected interviews stimulate familial protection and cultural care. Frances Rings, Associate Artistic Director, softly narrates that her children need to believe and know they have a world that understands their world. — Jack Gray