Director Larissa Behrendt - After the Apology- a landmark documentary about child removal
After the Apology, the closing night film of the Winda Film Festival, looks at what has happened in the years since the 2008 speech which stopped the nation by the then Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. After the Apology is a landmark documentary exploring the continued practice of child removal and the community response as it follows the steps being taken by the community through grass-roots advocates like Grandmothers Against Removal (GMAR) to make a change. Ahead of its screening at the festival we spoke to the film’s director, Professor Larissa Behrendt.
How does it feel to be screening After the Apology at Winda Film Festival?
I was so thrilled to have After the Apology accepted for the Winda Film Festival. It's exciting and humbling to be in such great company - great Indigenous filmmakers like Warwick Thornton and Alanis Obomsawin! And for an early career filmmaker like myself, having the closing night film feels pretty amazing.
After the Apology was selected by Screen Australia and the Adelaide Film Festival, in collaboration with KOJO and the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) a recipient of the Indigenous Feature Documentary Initiative, in addition to support from Create NSW. This funding streams can be highly competitive. How important are funds like these for social justice issues, and how did you make your application compelling?
I think it's an important initiative. There are so many stories that need to be told. They are powerful stories that have the potential to educate and to create real systemic change. It's not easy to get funding for these kinds of projects. I think the thing for us with After the Apology we had connections to many of the women whose stories we tell before we started because we had worked together on cases and reform. There was a strong level of collaboration with our subjects. And their stories are compelling and heartbreaking and inspiring so I think that makes any project stand out.
The documentary tells the story of the incredible advocates working across Australia in the area of child removal, as it gives a voice to four grandmothers who sparked a national movement to reunite Aboriginal families in the hope of reuniting with their grandbabies. How did you even start to take on a story of this size and what challenges did you have in telling their stories?
We knew our key characters had great stories and had been advocates for themselves. We knew their voices would be strong. The real challenges were about making sure the stories of our characters came through and were not lost with commentary. It was a matter of letting our characters speak for themselves. We were also challenged by some of the legal restraints on reporting cases where there are care orders but a creative approach like animation helped us get around that.
The film also displays statistics that people may not have seen before, for example, that 16,816 Indigenous children in out of home care, 10 times more likely than the national average. How confronting was undertaking your research for the film as an Aboriginal woman?
As someone whose grandmother was a member of the stolen generations, it's shocking. The Bringing Them Home report provided a comprehensive road map on the way forward and it shows there is still such a long way to go. But we saw the number of child removal cases increase in our workload at Jumbunna so the statistic confirmed what we are seeing on the ground. But I always marvel at the tenacity and strength of the people in our community who never give up the fight.
What outlook do you think both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal audiences will take away from the film?
For non-Indigenous audiences, I'd like them to be angry and to know that the Apology didn't mean that the issue was over. For Indigenous audiences, that you are not alone and if we fight together, we can make change.
The film is also hopeful, thanks to the resolute matriarchs reshaping public attitudes, policies, and prospects for future generations of Aboriginal children. What does the future for those affected by these policies look like to you?
I think one of the amazing thing about the grannies and advocates in the film is that they have been touched personally by the issue and are now motivated to make sure it doesn't happen to other people. At the heart of what everyone says works is the need for self-determination. This is not a new thing. It was a recommendation in the Bringing Them Home report and it needs to be the guiding principle. I remain increasingly concerned by the strong connection between our children being placed in out of home care and ending up in the criminal justice system. That has to stop.
As social justice documentary, you would hope that the film will promote a change in Australia. With that in mind, what plans do you have for the film, outside of the Winda Film Festival?
We have worked closely with grass roots groups and community organisations with this film. We have plans for a roll out across the country and hope that it will be used as an advocacy tool by people. We are also looking at ways it can be used as an educational and training resource.
As well as directing this film you are also an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction, and currently Professor of Indigenous Research at the University, Sydney of Technology. With so much on your plate will you be directing films again in the future? What’s next for you?
I see visual storytelling as an integral part of my advocacy practice. I love the way film can give voice to a marginalised person. I intend to continue to use it as a vehicle by which to tell our stories and to make social change,
Sunday 26 Nov 7pm | After the Apology| Sold Out
Closing Night Film | Australian Premiere | Australia
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Prof. Larissa Behrendt is a Eualeyai/Kamillaroi woman. She is the Professor of Law and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is admitted to the Supreme Court of the ACT and NSW as a barrister.Larissa is a Land Commissioner at the Land and Environment Court and the Alternate Chair of the Serious Offenders Review Board, a member of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia and a founding member of the Australian Academy of Law. She is the Chair of the Humanities and Creative Arts panel of the Australian Research Council College of Experts. She is the author of several books on Indigenous legal issues. She won the 2002 David Uniapon Award and a 2005 Commonwealth Writer's Prize for her novel Home. Her latest novel, Legacy, is due for release in October this year. Larissa is a Board Member of the Museum of Contemporary Art, a board member of Tranby Aboriginal College and a Director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre. She was named as 2009 NAIDOC Person of the Year.