10 Indigenous Australian Films to Watch

Although many of us love to get out and explore, some of us love to snuggle up at home and watch a movie. We essentially get to explore the world from the comfort of our own home. Watching movies is the perfect thing to do when it's raining, we are tired, or when our bellies are full from a big Christmas lunch. Assuming most of us have already exhausted our Christmas movie collection, here is a list of great Indigenous Australian films you can binge watch these holidays. You can find most of these movies on movie streaming services such as Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime and Google Play Movies.

1. The Sapphires (2013)

Image sourced from The Sapphires. 

Inspired by a true story, “The Sapphires” follows four vivacious young Yorta Yorta women who are discovered by a talent scout who form a musical group that travels to Vietnam in 1968 to sing for troops in the war. It is an uplifting movie that will make you both cry and laugh. Covering themes such as identity, importance of family and Indigenous tradition. The movie casts Deborah Mailman, Jessica Maulboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell and Chris O’Dowd.

2. Bran Nue Dae (2008)
Set in Broome Western Australia featuring country gospel and Broome-style Broadway dancing, Bran Nue Dae is a coming of age musical/comedy/drama that celebrates the adventure of finding your way back home. The story is based around Willie, a young Indigenous man who left the missionary school in Perth and ends up on a road trip finding his way back home. The film is a celebration of multicultural life and highlights the failures of government and church in enforcing assimilation and conformity. The film was directed by Rachel Perkins and casts Rocky McKenzie, Jessica Mauboy, Ernie Dingo, Missy Higgins and Geoffrey Rush.

3. Top End Wedding (2019)
Following the life of a newly engaged Lauren who travels home to plan a wedding in just 10 days only to find her parents have separated and her mother has gone. Top End Wedding is an Australian romantic comedy surrounding themes of family, intercultural marriages, and relationship challenges. Behind the lightheartedness the film also shows a yearning for reconciliation and the importance of connecting with culture, country and language. This beautiful movie is based in the Northern Territory and Tiwi Islands and features gorgeous soundtrack including First Nation Languages. To name a few, the film casts Miranda Tapsell, Gwilym Lee, Shari Sebbens, Ursula Yovich, Huw Higginson and Kerry Fox.

4. Satellite Boy (2012)

Image sourced from Satellite Boy.

Based in the northern Kimberley region of Western Australia, the film is rich with emotion and stunning visuals. Satellite Boy is a mythic story surrounding a young Aboriginal boy Pete, who lives with his grandfather in an old abandoned outdoor cinema. The film tackles the complexity of maintaining traditions of Indigenous heritage in a modern world and the fight against the looming destruction of one's homeland from developers. A stand out line from the film is “This is our land; it’s alive, it feels you, it knows you,” said by an Aboriginal elder played by David Gulpilil speaking with his grandson. This film casts David Gilpilil, Cameron Wallaby and Joseph Pedley.

5. Toomela (2011)
Based in an Aboriginal settlement and surrounding the life of a young boy who wishes to be a gangster much like the male role models within his life. Toomela is a powerful Australian drama and crime film. Facing a limited range of life choices and fast losing links to his Indigenous heritage, the young boy is seen skipping school, getting into fights and running drugs for the gang leader. This film, while depicting the bleak and harsh life on the mission , brings home a message of the power of self determination, and plants blooming seeds of hope.

6. Sweet Country (2017)

Image sourced from Sweet Country.

Inspired by real events Sweet Country is an Australian Western Drama set in the 1920’s in outback Northern Territory. The film depicts the story of an Aboriginal stockman Sam, played by Hamilton Morris, and his wife on the run after killing a white station owner in self defence. The film is said to evoke a righteous fury and national pride amongst the audiences and is definitely a must watch.

7. Samson and Delilah (2009)
Samson and Delilah is poignant and profound, it is a powerfully confronting film depicting a painful portrait of First Nation Australia. Set in a small isolated community in the central Australian desert, Samson and Delilah embark on a journey of survival when tragedy strikes. This Australian drama presents the viewer with the complexities and realities of everyday life for many young Indigenous peoples.

8. Beneath Clouds (2002)

Image sourced from Beneath Clouds.

Beneath Clouds is a deeply compelling film that depicts issues facing the Indigenous community from the perspective of two Indigenous youth. A light-skinned Aboriginal girl and an angry young man with a grudge against whites who recently escaped prison cross paths. Both characters are alienated from their families and embark on a challenging journey attempting to escape their past and build a new future.

9. Storm Boy (1976, 2019)
Many of us may already be familiar with the movie Storm Boy, an old classic that remains a beautiful tale to watch. There is now the 2019 adaption of the film where Storm Boy is all grown up and working as a lawyer who returns home to retell his childhood history to his granddaughter. Trevor Jameison plays the role of Fingerbone Bill and David Gulpilil is his father. This movie has significant ties to the Ngarrindjeri peoples, with the Ngarrindjeri language featuring throughout the film. Going beyond the script, Ngarrindjeri language is embedded within the lands, waters, sky, and all living things.

10. The Nightingale (2018)

Image sourced from The Nightingale.

The Nightingale is an Australian Western set in 1825 in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), written and directed by Jennifer Kent, the director of renowned horror film, The Babadook. The film follows a young Irish female convict seeking revenge for a brutal act of violence committed against her and her family. Throughout her trek in the Tasmanian wilderness she enlists a young Aboriginal tracker who also is marked from the trauma of his own violence-filled past. This film features Palawa Kani language, a constructed Aboriginal language used by Palawa peoples in Lutruwita (Tasmania). Please note this film is for viewers 18+ and is not suitable for young audiences.

 

Acknowledgement
We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land and sea. We pay our respect to all Elders, past, present and emerging.