The Royal Open Air Cinema in Winton. (Image: Facebook)

With National Reconciliation Week encouraging Australians to learn more about shared histories and cultures to start this month, the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival is set to honour traditional custodians of the land through film towards its end.

Taking place in the central west Queensland town of Winton from June 24 – July 2, the ninth iteration of the festival will include a First Nations Day on June 26, featuring films created by or featuring First Nations practitioners.

There will also be a Dreamtime storytelling masterclass designed to facilitate, develop and support emerging Indigenous filmmakers and writers to tell their stories in their own way.

Six Indigenous filmmakers and writers will be selected to travel to Winton where they will partake in week-long masterclasses facilitated by Sue McPherson and supported by Leah Purcell and Bain Stewart.

Purcell, a Goa, Gunggari, Wakka Wakka Murri woman and star, director, producer, and writer of The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, has been appointed as patron of this year’s festival.

Festival director Mark Melrose told IF the additions to the program had come from conversations with the Koa people, who last year gained recognition as Native Title Holders of land and waters covering 31,400 square kilometres in Queensland’s north-west.

“We’ve been working with the Koa Group since 2016 and they have recently been formally awarded the traditional ownership of Winton,” he said.,

“They’ve attended the last four festivals to interact without guests and conduct Welcome to Countries etc.

“We really wanted to bring out more around The First Nations and really honour them, so there’s a couple of initiatives this year that came out of last year’s Year of Indigenous Tourism.”

Melrose paid tribute to Screen Queensland, as well as Purcell and Stewart, for their support of the Dreamtime Storytelling Masterclass.

“We’ve been trying to get this off the ground for about 18 months now, so we’re quite excited about what it is and want to thank Screen Queensland for making it happen,” he said.

“Having Leah and Bain involved is something that certainly takes it to a different level because Leah is of Koa descent, so its been a very natural fit for us in that regard.”

Centred around the theme ‘Beach to Bush’, this year’s Vision Splendid Festival will consist of an immersive nine-day program with screenings under the stars in Winton’s 104-year-old Royal Open Air Cinema.

The town will once again be home to more than 60 film, animation, and screenwriting students as part of Kolperi Outback Filmmaking, formally known as the Vision Splendid Institute.

A consortium between the festival, Griffith Film School, Winton Shire Council, and Koa Traditional Owners, the institute invites students to shoot their films in Winton and screen them as part of the short film competition on the final night.

Kolperi director Ashley Burgess said she was excited to welcome all students, especially those coming from all around the world to take part in the national program.

“The Bootcamp is a one-of-a-kind initiative, that offers first-rate mentorship to our incredibly talented local and international students – with stunning film landscapes and endless creative opportunities,” she said.

Other highlights include the world premiere of Kriv Stenders’ Boy from the Bush, a feature-length music documentary that celebrates the music of country star Lee Kernaghan.

Festival curator and creative director Greg Dolgopolov said this year’s festival was the perfect opportunity to “skip the winter blues and traverse through endless horizons, experience timeless stories and the spirit of Australia”

“The action-packed program has been curated to engage and inspire our audiences, taking them on a journey beyond the bounds of reality to discover a heightened appreciation for the stories that shape us,” he said. 

The Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival will take place June 24-July 2 in Winton. Find out more information about the program here.

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