Last night on behalf of the Wairoa Maori Film Festival, I had the absolute privilege to attend the inaugural opening of the Winda Film Festival down at Circular Quay at the Dendy in Sydney. Thanks Leo Koziol, what a special night and what a great night for it was for all indigenous film makers.
Winda Executive Director Medika Thorpe opened the festival with ceremony by introducing local elder Uncle Chicka Madden who guided us through history and geography of the Eora nation, peppered with stories of growing up on Gadigal land while inspiring the audience to share in the richness that connects us all together. It was interesting how he could conduct a personal and intimate conversation with an entire theatre. Looking around it was clear that he made us all feel very special and welcome. It was an added honour to share the ceremony with our indigenous brothers and sisters with karakia by our very own Tainui Stephens.
Accolades to Artistic Director Pauline Clague whose warmth oozed out into the audience during the Q&A session after Mahana with star of the film Nancy Brunning. Nancy’s stunning, yet largely silent performance was the single element that connected the characters with each other while at the same time binding the film together too. Having not seen the film before, it was pretty special to have this insight into director Lee Tamahori’s interpretation of Witi Ihimaera’s book, Bulibasha.
Medika talked about her connection with the ImagineNATIVE festival in Canada. Given ImagineNATIVE’s 18 year history, it’s clear that there are pathways around the world that through film, indigenous people are able make positive changes. Reading through the program, the film synopsis all have something quite unique in their treatment of culture empowerment, facing challenges and maturity. I really wish I could get to see all of the films at the festival this weekend.
The after party was a who’s who of the indigenous film and television world. Dramaturgs, actors, cinematographers and well you get the picture they were all there. Mind you, there was a lot to celebrate at the Opera House that night so, I guess they turned on the remembrance day poppies projected onto the House early to help celebrate the occasion. Well done Sydney and well done Winda Film Festival.