Karrabing Film Collective — Day One

What does it mean to be indigenous in Australia today? This two-day programme presents the perspectives and work of the Karrabing Film Collective, an Indigenous media group based in Australia’s Northern Territory, which uses filmmaking and installation as a form of grassroots resistance and self-organisation.

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The programme on Day One will begin with a talk by a founding member of the Karrabing Film Collective, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, who is the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University. Her books include Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism (2016), Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism (2011), and The Cunning of Recognition: Indigenous Alterities and the Making of Australian Multiculturalism (2002). She will discuss the beginnings and workings of the Collective, and the networks of power and politics that it encounters and reveals through its work.

This talk will be followed by the screening of two early films by the Collective, When the Dogs Talked (2014) and Windjarrameru, The Stealing C*nt$ (2015).



Australia | 2014 | 33 min 56 sec

As a group of Indigenous adults argue about whether to save their government housing or their sacred lands, their children struggle with how the ancestral Dreaming makes sense in their contemporary lives filled with hip-hop and dinosaur bones.



Australia | In English | 2020 | 96 min | Trailer

This film blends Indigenous storytelling with modern worries over environmental degradation and substance abuse in a story about a group of young Indigenous men hiding in a chemically contaminated swamp after being falsely accused of stealing beer, while all around them miners pollute their land.



Karrabing Film Collective (est. 2007, Australia) comprises an intergenerational mix of approximately 30 Indigenous Australians, mostly from the rural Belyuen community, and anthropologist Elizabeth Povinelli, who has worked with them since 1984. The group was formed in response to the Australian government’s aggressive Northern Territory National Emergency Response measures regarding welfare provision, law enforcement, and land tenure for Indigenous communities.

In the Emmiyengal language, “karrabing” means “low tide”, foregrounding the connection between Indigenous peoples, outside of divisions that the state puts in place based on clan and territory. Together, members have sought to generate their own model for Indigenous filmmaking and activism by creating art through communal thinking and experimentation.

Shot on handheld consumer-grade cameras and phones, most of Karrabing’s films dramatise and satirise the everyday issues that members face, such as the bureaucracy of the nation-state, youth incarceration for minor offences, cuts in social welfare, and pressure on Indigenous communities to open up ancestral lands to mining corporations. These subjects are explored through an approach the group has termed ‘improvisational realism’, which opens a space beyond binaries of the fictional and the documentary, the past and the present. Seamlessly blending fiction and documentary traditions, these films are a way for the group to retain connections to land and the ancestral Dreaming.

Its work has been presented at Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen, Berlin; Jakarta Biennale; Centre Pompidou; Tate Modern; documenta 14, Kassel; Melbourne International Film Festival; Berlinale; Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane; MoMA PS1, New York; and Biennale of Sydney; among others. In 2021, the Collective was awarded the Eye Art & Film Prize.



This presentation belongs to a three-part film programme that explores prevailing narratives concerning indigeneity in Australia and Vietnam. It is conceived in conjunction with the ongoing special exhibition, Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia that runs from 27 May to 25 September 2022 at National Gallery Singapore.

The other presentations in this programme feature the documentary Firestarter—The Story of Bangarra about the Bangarra Dance Theatre, a company of professional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers, as well as moving image works by Vietnamese artist Nguyen Trinh Thi.

As part of this programme, there will be free curator tours of the Ever Present exhibition on Sunday 10 July, 11am and 12pm. Please click ‘BOOK TOUR’ to register.

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