Australia is a massive country with pockets of population spread across this wide brown land. Too often, films are released only in major urban centres, leaving a whole swathe unable to access what the mainstream is speaking about.
This is one of the major factors that played into the establishment of the Northern Territory Travelling Film Festival.
“I did some strategic work with the Darwin Film Society, which operates our beautiful outdoor Deckchair Cinema,” says Festival Director Britt Guy. “One of the discussions was around all of these fantastic NT films that were being created and quite often shared at the Darwin Film Festival but then weren’t necessarily shown elsewhere. They weren’t getting to NT communities and even back to the places they were about, the people that they were about or the country they’d been filmed on.”
The answer was a travelling film festival, but with a difference. “We could create iconic experiences for visitors and locals to see the films in NT landscape and also have the films shared with NT audiences, with particular focus of traveling to places that the films had been filmed; where there were cultural connections.”
The Northern Territory Travelling Film Festival was born in 2018, and in 2019 takes a major leap with an advance screening of Miranda Tapsell’s highly anticipated rom-com, Top End Wedding, the uplifting documentary The Song Keepers and various short films.
“What we realised while doing this was the wealth of talent that exists in remote communities. And also, the beautiful thing about cinema is the value of having your stories, your world, your ideas as well as other people’s stories, worlds and ideas reflected back to you on a big screen. It created its own energy around the festival.
“The program is a mixture of Indigenous and non-Indigenous films,” she continues. “Some of my favourite memories of last year were a number of films that were Indigenous languages and were subtitled. And we reached particular areas that obviously, it was the same language, or it was a similar language, and watching audiences laugh at completely different moments to me.
“We travel with all of the equipment, so we have to set up, including the blow-up screen,” says Guy. “The aim is to really create a cinematic experience. Lots of regional places are used to projecting on a wall or frankly, tying up sheet. But the idea is taking the cinema on the road so that it’s a big and cinematic experience.
“We do our ‘class event’, which is more on the tourist side. Tickets range between $12-$19. And then we have our community program which is our regional remote program, mostly Indigenous communities and they are delivered for free in partnership with a youth centre or local business.”
Most community tour stops also include writing or filmmaking workshops, and 30 minutes of local content.
“The festival captures the conversation about understanding and cross-cultural rights which is such a huge part of the Territory,” says Guy. “With the localised films, sometimes they are from years ago, which the communities just love. They are in-language and very specific, aiming to be reflective of each community.”
With Indigenous cinema currently celebrated around the world, the NT Travelling Film Festival is in a perfect position to enable our next generation of filmmakers.
“The Northern Territory is an inherent storyteller – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – with tall tales of crocodiles and big landscapes, and the layer on top of it of Indigenous culture, which is an oral history and a storytelling culture. It’s an evolution of a culture that has existed for a very long time and now has a new mode of telling a story. And then obviously there’s pop culture and the European history of cinema, and then you start to see these really cool projects that capture both of those worlds.”