Maya Newell’s Indigenous doc resonates with festivals, commercial audiences

'In My Blood It Runs'.

‘In My Blood It Runs.’

Maya Newell’s feature documentary In My Blood It Runs has been winning hearts and minds since the world premiere in competition at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival last year.

The biopic of 10-year-old Dujuan Hoosan, a child healer and hunter in the Northern Territory who was struggling at school and facing increasing scrutiny from welfare and the police, is resonating with both festival and commercial audiences.

Developed via GoodPitch Australia, the film grossed an impressive $127,000 from the Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, Brisbane, CinefestOZ and Screenwave film festivals and, earlier this month, the Perth Festival.

Co-distributed by Jonathan Page’s Bonsai Films and the filmmakers, the doc launched on six screens in the capital cities last Thursday, sold out multiple Q&A sessions and rang up $55,000.

It was among the top titles at Cinema Nova, where CEO Kristian Connelly observes: “In My Blood It Runs surpassed all expectations, selling out three Q&As in Carlton as well as multiple shows across the weekend. We added extra sessions to meet demand.”

Page says the film will continue at all six cinemas, he is adding several locations and it will then roll out out across the rest of the country via FanForce.

Citing successes such as The Australian Dream and Dark Emu, Page says: “I think Indigenous stories and issues are front and centre these days.

“The filmmakers have been exceptional at building audiences, working with committed partners and supporters from day one and then activating the audience well in advance of the release. The number of sessions selling out before the release was remarkable.”

The Q&As have been shared among the producers, Closer Productions’ Sophie Hyde, Rachel Naninaaq Edwardson, Larrissa Behrendt and Newell.

Last week Newell spoke at a screening at the Alice Springs town camp where the opening scenes were filmed. “People were very teary and moved at the end,” she tells IF.

With the help of social impact teams and the organisations Akeyulerrre and Children’s Ground, the film champions the creation of a First Nations-led education system and an end to incarcerating Indigenous kids.

“We always wanted to use the cinema release as an opportunity to light a spark on the incredible work of the First Nations peoples and organisations that have been pushing for educational reform for a very long time,” she says.

“This boy Dujuan, who was not on anyone’s radar and the least likely to be listened to, was the youngest person to address the UN Human Rights Council last September.

“The Western systems that were meant to uplift him failed him. In the end, his family found a solution for him.”

Perhaps surprisingly, international distributors and sales agents turned down the chance to handle the doc so the filmmakers have taken that into their own hands.

Sentient.Art.Film, which released Gabrielle Brady’s Island of the Hungry Ghosts, has acquired the US rights and Newell expects to announce deals with significant international broadcasters soon.

The UK premiere will be held on March 15 at the London Human Rights Watch Film Festival; a UK deal is yet to be concluded.

There will be a screening in Canberra tomorrow hosted by Labour Senator for the Northern Territory Malarndirri Barbara Anne McCarthy, which will also see Dujuan’s grandmothers and educators present their road map for a First Nations-led education system.

In My Blood It Runs was funded by GoodPitch Australia, Documentary Australia Foundation, Screen Australia, Screen Territory and the South Australian Film Corporation.