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A festival to inspire

Ros Hull

I have seen two movies at the Canberra International Film Festival that have given me joy and made me think.

Both are about indigenous women and both women are people I admire. To know more about their journeys has taken my breath away.

Footprints on Our Land is the story of Aunty Agnes Shea, much loved Ngunnawal Elder, local living legend and all round amazing human being. For me, over the time I have lived in Canberra, she has raised the traditional welcoming ceremony to so much more than a mere formality at the beginning of ‘important’ gatherings.

By sharing her language, her traditions and her warmth that ceremony is something I look forward to and hold to my heart every time I am present. Anyone who has shared this ceremony would recognise the title from her generous comment at each ceremony, that we are welcome to leave our footprints on Ngunnawal land.

To be allowed into her life through this film felt like both an honour and a secret treat. We in the audience learned more about the struggles, loss and hard work that have been a large part of this wonderful woman’s story – but we were also welcomed into her family as they and close friends talked about her. The love was palpable in every frame as was her dignity and grace. Then at the Q&A after the screening we got a glimpse of her cheeky side – 84 and spry is only half the story!

Aunty Agnes

Aunty Agnes

Huge snaps to filmmaker Pat Fiske for the creation of such a genuine and loving portrait of a Canberra treasure. The DVD will be available for purchase at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre and I suggest every educator in the ACT screen it to show students why we pay respect to the traditional owners and the Elders, past and present. As Agnes says, if you give respect you will get respect back.

Ella

Ella Havelka

Ella is the story of the first indigenous dancer accepted into the Australian Ballet, Ella Havelka, and it is the most beautiful, lyrical documentary I have seen in a long time. This girl has amazing grace and shy dignity but a twinkle in her eye as well. Just like her biggest fan – her loving mum.

However what almost had me in tears was not the way she is representing her people but the very personal journey she has been on to achieve what she has. The sheer hard work, the things she has given up (as every elite athlete does), the doubts, the setbacks and the shining joy in doing what she loves the most. She has not drooped under the pressure of being ‘first’ but has quietly won through.

The audience contained a largish chunk of little dancers there to watch a girl who is doing what she loves, what they love – and what they saw was that it is possible, you can become a ballerina, if you keep working.

The sheer beauty and dance-like rhythm of the film are a credit to Queensland filmmaker Douglas Watkin (yay for my home State!) and snaps to local film producers Wildbear Entertainment who co-produced with Ronin Films.

If you miss Ella at the Festival, it will be opening on five screens Australia wide soon and may be distributed via education networks later. My joy in this production did have a soupcon of sadness though, knowing that the music featured by David Page was some of his final work before his death earlier this year.

Both these women gave me a benchmark for how to live a life and both deserve their stories to be seen by as many people as possible.

The Canberra International Film Festival is happening until this Sunday, 6 November at the National Film and Sound Archive. Find out which films you can still catch here or read more about the Festival here, here and here

Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

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