Karrabing Film Collective—Day Two

The programme on Day Two continues with a presentation of films produced by the Karrabing Film Collective. There will be screenings of their recent works, Wutharr, Saltwater Dreams (2016), The Jealous One (2017), Night Time Go (2017) and The Mermaids or, Aiden in Wonderland (2018).



Australia | In English with English subtitles | 2016 | 28 min 53 sec | PG13 (Some Coarse Language)

In a series of surreal sequences, members of an Indigenous family offer varying accounts about what caused their boat’s motor to break down and leave them stranded out in the bush. As they argue over what could have caused this—the ancestral presence, the regulatory state, and the Christian faith—they reveal the multiple tensions of contemporary Indigenous life.

Based on real events, Wutharr, Saltwater Dreams explores how the Karrabing Film Collective’s Indigenous filmmakers experience missionary Christian moral codes and settler rule-of-law, and how these layer, displace and are ultimately absorbed into ancestral territorial arrangements. Wutharr, Saltwater Dreams received the 2015 Visible Award, and premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival (2017).



Australia | In English with English subtitles | 2017 | 29 min 17 sec | PG13 (Some Coarse Language)

While trying to attend a mortuary ceremony taking place on his ancestral land, an Indigenous man encounters a roadblock in the form of bureaucratic red tape. Meanwhile, a husband is consumed by jealousy over his wife’s behaviour and gets into a fight with her brother. This action excludes him from the ceremony or corroboree, where they interact with the Dreamtime through music, costume, and dance. These two plot lines intersect in a dramatic finish as the characters are led to replay the ancestral story of the Dogs and Sea Monster.

The film premiered at Valkerij en Sigarenmakerij Museum with the support of Frontiers Imaginary, Ed. 5, curated by Vivian Ziherl and the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority.



Australia | In English with English subtitles | 2017 | 31 min 10 sec | PG13 (Some Coarse Language)

Night Time Go is an exploration of the settler state’s attempt to remove Indigenous people from their lands during World War II, and the refusal of the Karrabing ancestors to be detained.

On 19 September 1943, a group of Karrabing ancestors escaped from a war internment camp and walked over 300 kilometres back to their coastal homelands in Northern Australia. The film starts off as a historical retelling of the events of this ancestral journey, but soon shifts to tell an alternative history about an Indigenous insurrection driving out settlers from the Top End of Australia. Mixing drama and humour, history and satire, the film pushes subaltern history beyond the bounds of settler propriety. Night Time Go was commissioned by Haus der Kulturen der Welt as part of the curatorial project After The Wildly Improbable (2017) by Adania Shibli.



Australia | In English with English subtitles | 2018 | 26 min 29 sec | PG13 (Some Coarse Language)

In a not-so-distant future, Europeans can no longer survive for long periods outdoors in a land and seascape poisoned by capitalism, while Indigenous people seem to be unaffected by its effects. Aiden—a young Indigenous man who was taken away as a baby to be a part of a medical experiment to save the Caucasian race—is released into the world, and back to his family. As he travels with his father and brother across the landscape, he confronts two possible futures and pasts.

The Mermaids or, Aiden in Wonderland premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival (2018).



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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