By Abhi Parasher

“It’s about Martha, a Torres Strait Islander woman who works in a laundromat in the city. One evening, she is visited by someone who reminds her of home,” says co-writer/director John Harvey.

The Katele (mudskipper) “takes different forms; within our culture, people can take human forms or animal forms and go to different places.”

In the short film, the Katele comes through the washing machine in the form of a human, reminding Martha of a life that she has left behind.

“There is a big diaspora community of Saibai Island people across Australia and like any diaspora community, you have this longing for home… We all move away from these places for opportunities for the future, but that longing for home always remains.”

Katele (Mudskipper) tackles Saibai Island mythology in a unique way that excited John Harvey and his co-writer, Walter Waia. “I really wanted to do a story from Saibai Island for a long time,” says Harvey. “Creating this new mythology that has a Saibai Island world view and philosophy behind it, that was just really exciting within the film form.”

L-R Andrew Belletty (Sound Recordist), Daniel McArthur (DoP), John Harvey (Dir), Elma Kris (‘Martha’)

Like a lot of recent film production, COVID and the subsequent border closures were a challenge for the filmmakers. “We had some actors interstate, and we’re in Queensland. We filmed some of it in Brisbane, the majority of it in the laundromat, and then we shot the island scenes up in the Torres Strait.”

Although Harvey couldn’t make it in person for this year’s Flickerfest, his experience of winning the festival’s biggest award was remarkably pertinent. “I was in Queensland, and I was actually folding laundry on a Sunday. I was doing what Martha was doing!” he says with a laugh.

“It’s wonderful to have the film acknowledged in that way for everyone who worked on it. Everyone goes above and beyond, so it’s wonderful to have that recognition for the team.”

Harvey’s background in storytelling traverses many areas, from theatre to film. He has worked as a producer on feature films such as Spear and The Turning, and he particularly has a love for working with ambitious and risk taking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island storytellers.

“There’s this form of film, which is heavily adapted from a Western framework of storytelling. And so, it’s playing around with that form and seeing how you can use that in a way that embodies your worldview and your philosophy from your own people. That kind of expression allows for an expansion of the form.”

John Harvey is currently working on a few long form projects in the film medium. He will be taking a trip to the Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates to screen a documentary that he worked on called Still We Rise and giving a talk in regards to a theatre show that he wrote called The Return.

Head over to the Brown Cabs website to find out more about John Harvey and his work.  
Katele (Mudskipper) is currently screening as part of the Flickerfest Tour.