Student film-makers focus on life in Redfern

4 January 2008

The University's neighbours, residents of The Block in Redfern, feature in aseries of revealing documentaries made by digital media students.

The three-minute films were made as part of the digital video design and production course.

The idea grew out of observations made by lecturer Caitlin de Berigny Wall - who prefers the name Dr onacloV - as she moved around the campus. It also dovetailed neatly into the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning's strategic plan which aims to enhance relationships with Indigenous students and communities.

"I thought it would be great if students could focus their documentary films about Koori people living in our area - simply meeting different members of the community and making documentaries about them and their work. Ithasn't always been easy but it has been very interesting and successful."

The students have held two film award ceremonies so far, both at the Redfern Community Centre. Wai Yuen Chong's documentary aboutSonia Brindle, a Sydney woman who tells her life story, including her experience of losing one of her brothers in custody, was especially powerful, said Dr onacloV.

"Her story was very brutal and I found out a lot of things that you don't read about in the paper," said Wai Yuen Chong, who won Best Film and Best Cinematography at the June awards.

Dr onacloV, a documentary installation artist, said the digital films have dealt with issues of multiculturalism and racism.

"This course is so important because Indigenous Australians still have a life expectancy that is 20 years below that of the average Australian. There's a long way to go, but it is important that students know about the oldestliving culture in the world.

"Their stories are so interesting and documentary is a really effective way to challenge stereotypes and cross racial divides," said Dr onacloV.

She added: "It starts with education - just to let other Australians see interesting cultural aspects of Indigenous culture that can be shown in a positive way rather than relying on stereotypes."

The unit is part of the postgraduate masters course in digital media in the Discipline of Design within the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning.

"I teach students theoretical and philosophical enquiries behind documentary and, in this unit the focus is on Indigenous Australians," Dr onacloV said.

She hopes to make the film festival a bi-annual event.