SBS and NITV reveal Curious Australia documentaries

'The Alexander Ball'. (Image: Somefx)

SBS and NITV have unveiled the seven standalone half-hour documentaries that have been commissioned as part of their national Curious Australia initiative.

Run Girl, The Alexander Ball, We Are Sexual Beings, and Whatever Scares You will screen on SBS, while Black Empire, Sistas in Mining and Unlocked are set to premiere on NITV.

Created in partnership with Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Screen NSW, Screen Queensland, Screen Tasmania, Screen Territory, Screenwest, and the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC), the one-off documentary initiative is designed to support screen practitioners from under-represented backgrounds in the sector.

Criteria included two key creative roles on a project being held by people from an under-represented background, including those identifying as First Nations Australians; women; people of diverse age backgrounds; people from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds; people living with disability; people of diverse sexuality and gender identities including LGBTQIA+; people from under-represented locations (including regional and remote areas); and people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds.

Each documentary was selected for its reflection of SBS’s charter and its exploration of issues relevant to contemporary Australia.

SBS commissioning editor for documentaries Bernadine Lim said there had been a fantastic response to the initiative.

“We received a large number of submissions with exciting, untold stories from incredible up-and-coming storytellers,” she said.

“Curious Australia is an exciting new addition to our factual offering across the SBS network, providing a unique opportunity for mid-level and emerging documentary-makers to tackle contemporary Australian stories and issues, while also supporting the development of diverse creative talent in the sector.”

NITV commissioning editor Marissa McDowell said the channel was pleased to be ensuring that “under-represented storytellers have a platform for their perspectives to inspire all Australians”.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing these bold and unique stories from First Nations documentary makers across Australia uncovered through this initiative, come to life on our screens,” she said.

The selected projects are:

Run Girl (Screen NSW)
Australian Olympic sprinter, Bendere Oboya, embraces her identity to confront her destiny as she switches disciplines from the 400m to 800m in pursuit of becoming the world’s best. After joining her local athletics club to make friends, the Ethiopian-born 21-year-old is determined to show that no matter your beginnings, anything is possible.

Director/Producer/Writer: Renny Wijeyamohan
Writer: Zufan Emerson

The Alexander Ball (Screen Queensland)
The Alexander Ball (working title) is an observational documentary extravaganza celebrating Samoan-Australian trans woman of colour, Ella Ganza, and the Meanjin (Brisbane) ballroom scene, as the community prepares for one of biggest pride events of the year: The Alexander Ball.

Director/Producer/Writer: Jessica Magro

We Are Sexual Beings (Film Victoria)
What does it mean to be young, disabled, and sexual in modern Australia? We Are Sexual Beings exposes the fun and sometimes painful details as we follow three remarkably different human beings who all happen to share two things in common: life-altering spinal injuries and healthy sexual appetites

Creator/Writer/Producer: Lucy Knox
Creator/Writer/Director: Isaac Elliott

Whatever Scares You (Film Victoria)
Whatever Scares You (working title) is a rite of passage film that documents Breanna Deleo in her first year of work. Breanna is attempting to work as a professional artist – a challenging profession for anyone. And Breanna identifies as disabled. Breanna’s parents are her greatest allies and advocates. They want to protect Breanna but sometimes to find our way in the world, we need to go it alone.

Writer and Director: Tamara Searle
Writer: Breanna Deleo
Producer: Alice Fleming

Black Empire (South Australian Film Corporation)
After a successful but exhausting career fighting prejudice, racism, and exploitation in the Australian Music Industry, rapper Jimblah embarks on his latest project, BLKMPIRE, aiming to reimagine how the music industry can work. But can he transform the country through black song, or will the staid traditions of an exploitative industry rear their heads?

Director: Johanis Lyons-Reid
Writer/Director: Pearl Berry
Writer/Producer: Piri Eddy
Producer: Lilla Berry

Sistas in Mining (Screen Queensland)
Sistas in Mining (working title), is a documentary that will follow the inspiring story of Shontell Leah Ketchell, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman, who is an aspiring screenwriter who works as a production operator on a coal mine in Central Queensland.

Co-Director: Ewan Cutler
Co-Director/Producer: Jill Robinson
Writer/Creator/Associate Producer: Shontell Leah Ketchell

Unlocked (Screen NSW)
Unlocked explores how a journey of two similar teenagers facing juvenile incarceration can be drastically altered if they identify as being Indigenous Australian. A story about mental illness told through the lens of animation, having animated characters interact with live-action worlds is innovative and refreshing.

Co-Director/Co-Writer: Jake Duczynski
Co-Director/Co-Writer: James Hackett
Executive Producer: Beck Cole
Producer: Andrew Arbuthnot