(Photo: Oliver Eclipse).

Backburning, a theatrical doco about Midnight Oil, a new collaboration between Rolf de Heer, David Gulpilil and Molly Reynolds, and a ‘companion piece’ to upcoming SBS drama Sunshine are among the 15 latest documentaries to be backed by Screen Australia.

The agency announced the $4.15 million in production investment across its Documentary Producer and Commissioned programs yesterday; the last documentary announcement from the 2016-17 financial year.

Screen Australia senior manager of documentary Liz Stevens said: “This diverse and exciting slate of projects demonstrates the incredible richness of Australian stories and storytellers – whether it’s a jackaroo changing the lives of disaffected youths in rural NSW, or the musicians and politicians who shaped a generation. It is a privilege to fund programs that will add to audiences’ understanding of the world.”

The Documentary Producer projects are:

  • Theatrical documentary Backburning, from Beyond Entertainment, Blink TV and Village Roadshow, which will follow Midnight Oil from 1975 until today. Produced by Martin Fabinyi and Carolina Sorensen, executive produced by Ron Saunders and Mikael Borglund, and written and directed by Paul Clarke/
  • The Backtrack Boys from Infinity Pictures, a character-driven observational documentary about the challenges faced by youth at risk in rural Australia. The feature will follow three teenage boys on the fast track towards juvenile detention before they are taken in by jackaroo Bernie Shakeshaft and his unconventional youth program in Armidale – training working dogs for jumping competitions around rural NSW. Written and directed by Catherine Scott, executive produced by Mitzi Goldman and the Documentary Australia Foundation (DAF).
  • Feature documentary Beautiful Minds: The Agents of Change from Bunya Productions, which will follow 76 female scientists on board an Antarctic expedition, and interrogate the gender imbalance in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Produced by Greer Simpkin, executive produced by David Jowsey and directed by Ili Baré, the feature has also secured funding from Create NSW, Good Pitch Australia, the Shark Island Institute and DAF.
  • Vertigo Productions’ as yet untitled collaboration between David Gulpilil, Rolf de Heer and Molly Reynolds. The trio worked together for 2015’s Another Country, in addition to Gulpilil and de Heer’s 2013 feature Charlie’s Country which saw Gulpilil win Best Actor at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. This project has also secured South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) funding.
  • ABC Arts documentary We Live Here from WildBear Entertainment and People Productions, about  residents in high-rise public housing in Sydney’s Waterloo threatened by the gentrification. Produced by Carolina Sorensen, executive produced by Alan Erson, and written by Clare Lewis who will also make her directorial debut.
  • White Light, producer-director George Gittoes’ follow up to his 2005 film Rampage. Also produced by Hellen Rose, the film will look at ‘child soldiers’; teenagers involved in the drug wars in the African American projects of Miami, USA.

The Documentary Commissioned projects are:

  • Apex Gang: Behind The Headlines from Joined Up Films, an companion piece to upcoming SBS crime drama series Sunshine. Set in Melbourne’s South Sudanese community it will examine what it takes to make a multicultural society viable. The documentary will be programmed in a similar fashion to the successful double billing of Deep Water and Deep Water: The Real Story in 2016. Produced by Darren Hutchinson, executive produced by Anthony Willinge, Jacqueline Willinge and Daniel Brown, and directed by Nick McInerney.
  • Joined Up Films’ one hour special Australia Uncovered (working title) commissioned by SBS, exploring contemporary inequality in Australian society. Produced and directed by Daniel Brown, and executive produced by Jacqueline Willinge.
  • A second season of Network Ten’s Body Hack featuring Todd Sampson. Sampson takes on a writing and executive producer credit in the Essential Media & Entertainment series alongside writer/producer Chris Thorburn, executive producers Chris Hilton and David Alrich, and director Jeff Siberry.
  • Science documentary Can We Save The Reef, which is an exploration of the scientific techniques used by three leading female scientists who hope to provide a solution in the urgent race to save the Great Barrier Reef. Produced by Colette Beaudry and directed by Adam Geiger, it will form a part of the ABC’s new Catalyst program.
  • Three-part series Don’t Stop The Music from Artemis Media for the ABC, which will examine the role music can play in educating children by observing the introduction of a music program in a severely disadvantaged school in Western Australia. Executive produced by Celia Tait and Joan Peters, written by Katrina Tudor, and directed by Steve Westh and Ruth Cullen.
  • A second season of NITV’s Family Rules. Produced by Metamorflix with producer Kimberley Benjamin, executive producer Renee Kennedy, executive producer-director-writer Karla Hart, director Claire Leeman and writer Gillian Moody.
  • Hawke from Southern Pictures for the ABC; a historical doco about former Prime Minister Bob Hawke. Producers Susan Spencer (Four Corners) and Geraldine McKenna (Catalyst), executive producer Laurie Critchley and director Bruce Permezel will use unprecedented access to the former PM to explore the paradoxes of his leadership and his legacy over a two-part television event.
  • A two-part SBS series on mental health, Blackfella Films’ Mindset (working title), which will shine a light on the invisible epidemic of mental illness affecting around four million Australians. Produced by Darren Dale and Jacob Hickey who will also write, with BBC Worldwide attached for international sales.
  • Uncharted with Sam Neill, a co-production between Essential Media & Entertainment and Frame Up Films for Foxtel’s History Channel, that sees actor Sam Neill retrace Captain Cook’s travels to the Pacific. From writer-producer Owen Hughes, producer Aline Jacques, executive producers Chris Hilton, David Alrich and Sam Neill, writer-director Sally Aitken, and director Kriv Stenders.

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