Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin’s ‘Firestarter’ continues winning streak

'Firestarter - The Story of Bangarra'.

Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin’s Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra has followed up Monday’s AACTA Award for Best Documentary with yet another win, claiming the inaugural Change Award at the Adelaide Film Festival.

Offering a $5000 cash prize, the category is designed to recognise a film that celebrates social and environmental impact, while expressing a desire to live in new ways.

Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra tells the origin story of the renowned Bangarra Dance Company through the eyes of its artistic director Stephen Page and other members.

The film, which was directed by Nel Minchin and Wayne Blair, and produced by Ivan O’Mahoney, has already been announced as the winner of festival’s $10,000 Documentary Award.

Mahoney said the latest accolade went to the heart of “how we can all work together to shape a brighter future”.

“Bangarra have been at the forefront of reconciliation for three decades by bringing Indigenous stories and issues to mainstream audiences in an utterly captivating way,” he said.

“It’s simply impossible to see a Bangarra performance and to not want to engage more with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

“This film was the result of a pretty special partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and it has led to something quite unique.

“Winning the Change Award is certainly a terrific incentive to stay the course with social impact films.”

Adelaide Film Festival’s CEO and creative director Mat Kesting said it was fitting that the first winner of the AFF Change Award was a film about an arts company that had been a leader in Indigenous self-determination and “a transformative force” in artistic expression.

“The company has led Australia and the rest of the world’s appreciation of contemporary dance,” he said.

Shiva Baby

Also announced this week was the Festival’s Audience Award for Feature Fiction, which was won by the coming-of-age comedy Shiva Baby.

Set at a Jewish wake (shiva) in Brooklyn, the film was directed by Emma Seligman and produced by Emma Seligman, Lizzie Shapiro, Katie Schiller and Kieran Altman.

Altman, who returned to Adelaide from New York for the Festival screenings, paid tribute to the AFF for including the film in its program.

“A special thank you to AFF CEO and creative director Mat Kesting, AFF programs Gail Kovatseff, and the entire AFF team for taking a chance on Shiva Baby and including it in this year’s program,” he said.

“In a year of streaming festivals at home, zoom meetings and distanced interaction, it’s an honour to have screened sold-out sessions of the film to enthusiastic, in-person audiences.

“As a born and bred South Australian from Murray Bridge, this truly means the world.”

Shiva Baby has screened previously at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Audience Award for Documentary went to Yer Old Faither, an Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund film that had its world premiere at the 2020 fest.

A daughter’s love letter to her eccentric father, it tells the story of John Croall, a man ahead of his time.

He quietly greened the industrial country town of Whyalla while delivering three generations of local babies and periodically writing hilarious letters to prod politicians into action.

Yer Old Faither

Yer Old Faither was directed and produced by Heather Croall, CEO of the Adelaide Fringe.

Speaking about the win, Croall said she had been pleasantly surprised by the announcement, given the “brilliant” documentaries in the festival program.

“Since the premiere, messages have flooded in to me from so many people telling me how much they loved the film – this is testament to all the amazing, talented people who worked on this documentary with me and to them all I just want to express my heartfelt thanks.

Yer Old Faither was a true collaboration and I am so thankful to everyone who worked on it with me.”

The Short Film Audience Award was won by Alies Sluiter’s Ayaan, which tells the story of an escaped asylum seeker and her baby, who must decide whether the Indigenous man they meet on an isolated beach can be trusted, or whether they should proceed on their 400-mile journey alone.

Filmed in SA, Ayaan incorporates both Somali and the Indigenous Pitjantjatjara language.

The film has been previously nominated for a Dendy Live Action Short Award at the Sydney Film Festival, and won Best Direction in Student Film at the ADG Awards.

Shiva Baby and Yer Old Faither will both tour regionally as part of Adelaide Film Festival’s Curate Your Own Festival, which brings regional community curators to the Adelaide Film Festival for four days in order to take four films back to their towns.

Curators are encouraged to select films which would not usually be on offer in regional areas, while recognising and working to their community’s unique cultural make-up.

Yer Old Faither will screen at the Whyalla Cinema on December 9, accompanied by a Q&A with director and producer, Heather Croall. Also screening are Danish dramedy Another Round, starring Mads Mikkelsen, and the Australian dramas High Ground and Disclosure. The program’s local curator is Michal Hughes.

Shiva Baby will screen at the Cameo Cinema in Murray Bridge on December 12, accompanied by a Q&A with producer Kieran Altmann who grew up in Murray Bridge. High Ground and Another Round will also screen in the program curated by Robbie Greenwell.

After being cancelled due to Adelaide’s recent COVID-19 shutdown, the remainder of the Curate Your Own Festival tours in Goolwa and Port Lincoln will recommence in the new year.

Also as part of the fest, Firestarter – the Story of Bangarra recently screened to the Indigenous community at Raukkan, located west of Narrung on the Lake Alexandrina, curated by Issac Lindsey.