Right Now’s WINDA Film Festival 2017 highlights

By Rachael Imam and Stephanie Griffin
After the Apology

We review two poignant films from the 2017 WINDA Film Festival.

After the Apology explores the community’s response to the removal of Aboriginal children by welfare agencies, which has continued to increase since the Stolen Generations (1905–1969); and Waru, a Māori feature film, investigates the emotional and psychological toll domestic violence has on children, women, families and society at large.

After the Apology | Larissa Behrendt
Review by Rachael Imam

When former-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a national apology to the Stolen Generations on 13 February 2008, he stated that “the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.” Now, almost ten years on, Indigenous children are still ten times more likely to be placed in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children. After the Apology is a sobering and quietly devastating account of the damage and irreparable trauma that the continued removal of Indigenous children has on the children, their families and their communities.

The film offers us a range of perspectives, from the parents and grandparents of the children, to the people working within the child protection system, to the people of the Stolen Generations themselves. Filmmaker Larissa Behrendt does not shy away from the issues that contribute to the children’s removal, with parents and family members owning the part that violence and substance abuse plays in many of their communities, as it does in non-Indigenous communities around the country.

Their stories are deeply personal, revealing the immense weight that is born by the families who are left behind, forced to fight a system against which they have no power. They show how underfunding and a lack of self-determination leads to misinformation and misconduct, but also how effective intervention can be when it is early, personal and Indigenous-led.

After the Apology forces us to look not only at our violent history, but also at the injustices of our present. Sorry means you don’t do it again.

After the Apology is the festival’s closing night film. It screens on Sunday 26 November at 7:00pm at UTS Alumni Green with Larissa Behrendt, the film’s director and a Eualeyai/Kamillaroi woman, introducing the film.

Waru | Chelsea Cohen, Ainsley Gardiner, Casey Kaa, Renae Maihi, Awanui Simich-Pene, Briar Grace Smith, Paula Whetu Jones, Katie Wolfe
Review by Stephanie Griffin

Waru is a powerful celebration and lamentation of womanhood. After a young Māori boy is killed by his caregiver, the film follows eight different women struggling to reconcile with his death. Each woman’s perspective is experienced as a separate vignette; and while the narrative connection between each story may not be obvious, it is clear that each moment represented exists on the same temporal and emotional plane.

On one level Waru is an angry and active investigation into the emotional and psychological toll that domestic violence has on children, women, families and society at large; however, the cinematic and thematic relationships between each individual storyline leave the audience with something more valuable than anger; a holistic understanding of the female experience in Māori communities.

The films cinematic power comes from its sophisticated stylistic engagement with the themes of female empowerment. It’s hyperrealism at times crosses over to the mystic and the magical, acknowledging the otherworldliness of the experience of motherhood, of grief and the collective consciousness.

Overall, the eight female, Māori directors behind Waru are asking the audience to reflect on how systemic racial discrimination, poverty, abuse, violent patriarchal power dynamics and entrenched sexism are all a part of a larger, bigger-picture problem that makes it hard for those on the margins to feel secure. The film is also a call for women to come together in collaboration, for progress.

Waru (Australian premier) screens on Friday 24 November at 7:15pm at Event Cinema George Street, Sydney.


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