SF3’s Gateway for First Nations Stories

November 16, 2023
In its ninth year, the Smartfone FlickFest, and their embrace of accessible smart phone shot films, continues to offer opportunities for indigenous filmmakers of all ages to tell their stories.

Get ready for the SF3 SmartFone FlickFest 2023, one of the most innovative, inspirational and accessible film festivals in the world!

The festival will once again showcase an array of unique, big-screen-worthy entertainment captured on smart devices. Additionally, the SF3 selection is sure to inspire and encourage fledgling and established filmmakers to go out there and make films.

Watch the festival finalists’ films – in cinema sessions or online from this weekend – to witness what can be made with your phone.

We spoke with two of the Gala Finalists, whose short films make the festival well worth checking out.

2022 First Nations Award winner Harlisha Newie-Joe returns with her new dance spectacle Nganakaapu. Newie-Joe shares the meaning of the title: “Nganakaapu in my Kala Lagaw Ya (Western Island) language from Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait Island), means heart.

Nganakaapu for me is a further exploration of my film Roots – but instead of telling the story from a point of discovery, I was wanting it to develop from a place of acknowledgement. I find that with these two films that I have created, especially Roots, there was a focus more on my mother’s side of the family compared to my father’s, and for Nganakaapu I really wanted to make sure I was telling a story that acknowledged them together, because my mum and dad are truly the fire behind my storytelling and my creation; one is not better than the other. They both hold the same power.

“I wanted to touch base with the landscapes and terrain of our beautiful islands in Zenadth Kes, because in Roots it’s mentioned how that is where my ancestors ended up; they left their homes, and for their own reasons couldn’t go back, so they settled in the islands. I wanted to also show just a small fraction of our oceans as well. Those same waters my ancestors crossed in their time; how I get to see what they saw. I am a proud Torres Strait Islander woman from Mabuyag and Badu Island, proud to be from the Goemu and Wagadagam tribe, my ancestors’ story and journey has already happened, my parents have continued their stories and passed on their knowledge that they’ve been told growing up and now it’s my turn to start my own journey, but knowing I’ll always have people there guiding and supporting me whether it’s physically or spiritually…”

The mesmerising, stunningly performed piece effectively conjures a spiritual energy. We asked Newie-Joe how so much feeling is transferred through the screen, and what she thinks about while dancing. “I think about my body and how it’s going to take on this story and bring it to life in a physical form as best as I can with the knowledge I hold right now, and I say right now, because there is always room for growth as a creator, on how to move and process things. There is also a sense of respect as well; respect for my family and their stories but also for myself and my creative journey. Storying is a big part of my creativity and my process.”

Presenting another great story, no doubt partly inspired by her Indigenous roots, is 14-year-old Charli Fletcher. “I’ve always had this love for directing and filming,” she tells us. “Ever since I was a kid, I’d always film videos with my sister and friends and thought that making one for real would be a good experience and lots of fun! Which it was, I had a great time. Though it was a lot different than making films in my room with my sister. There were a lot more steps and involvement than I thought, but it was good because I ended up learning heaps.”

We asked Fletcher what it was like being a 14-year-old director, and one of the youngest people on set. “I have grown up around production and have always loved making my own stories! I had a really great time on set. Even though the first day was quite stressful, once we found our groove, I really started to enjoy it!” she says. “It was crazy how close we all became over the short time we shot together, and I was genuinely sad when it was over.”

The Locket’s cast and crew comprises some of her family and friends.

“The idea came from what would be quick and easy for me and my sister and with our love for horror it was an easy choice! Shooting POV seemed the easiest, and the cemetery was the perfect spot since it was close by, and we visit often. The idea developed around what we could do in the cemetery. The main thought being about a ghost and the rest of it just grew from there.

“Before the shoot days I spent a lot of time on prep, making sure I knew what we were shooting and how. We planned every shot even going as far to make an animatic [which is hilarious]. There was a lot more to it than I thought, storyboards, mood boards, wardrobe brief, shot list and meetings galore.”

We asked the talented filmmakers what they expect of the future. A diploma dance student at NAISDA College, Newie-Joe is enthusiastically pursuing the same path as dancer, choreographer and director. “Right now, I see myself creating more stories about my culture, there is so much to tell and the more I grow as an artist, I believe I’ll find different ways to tell these stories through film and dance.”

Although it may be early days for Fletcher, she agrees that her steps now could be the beginning of a future in film. “Yes! That’s my goal and it has been even before The Locket. But the movie has really confirmed that’s what I want to do. We actually already have an idea of the prequel and even a sequel for The Locket. You’ll have to wait to see…”

SF3 Smartfone FlickFest takes place online and in cinema on 18-19 November 2023, and includes screenings, networking parties, masterclasses, foyer activations and much more. Head to https://sf3.com.au/ to find out more.