Creative Spirits

Australian Aboriginal movies and films

Movies with Aboriginal content were rare before the mid-1990s. It wasn’t before the international success of the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence that the awareness for Aboriginal issues increased, even in Europe where this film was screened for almost half a year in Germany. Many of the films listed here are available on DVD or VHS tapes.

The section “Movies by non-Indigenous directors” lists movies with Aboriginal topics which were directed by non-Aboriginal people whereas “Movies by Aboriginal directors” do not necessarily cover Aboriginal topics.

2013
Aboriginal Film TimelineAboriginal film timeline

An Aboriginal film timeline lists the movies below in chronological order.

Can’t find a film? Check out my tips on how to find Aboriginal films.

Browse for Aboriginal movie DVDs in my Aboriginal Book Store.

Cinema is performance, that's how us blackfellas have connected with it. It's where we come from, with our storytelling. A lot of dreaming stories are about moral stories and news and teaching… that's the way Indigenous filmmakers are thinking.—Warwick Thornton, Aboriginal director [1]

Films by Aboriginal directors

Film titleDirectorMovie typeYear
88Adrian Russell WillsDocumentary2014
A Sister’s LoveIvan SenDocumentary2007
Among UsRichard FranklandDocumentary2010
ApekatheSteven McGregorDocumentary1997
Art + SoulWarwick ThorntonDocumentary2010
Aunty ConnieIvan SenDocumentary2006
Aunty Maggie & The Womba WakgunLeah PurcellComedy2009
Back Seat (Backseat)Pauline WhymanDrama2007
Barngngrnn Marrangu StoryQueenie BrennanShort2009
Bedevil (beDevil)Tracey MoffattDrama1993
Beneath CloudsIvan SenDrama2002
Big FellaMichael LongbottomDocumentary2010
Big Name No BlanketSteven McGregorDocumentary2013
Bit of Black BusinessAboriginal short film compilationShort2007
Black Chicks TalkingLeah Purcell, Brendan FletcherDocumentary2002
BlacktrackerMichael RileyDocumentary1996
BloodlinesJacob NashDrama2007
Bollywood DreamingCornel OziesDocumentary2007
Bourke BoyAdrian Russell WillsDrama2009
Boxing For Palm IslandAdrian Russell WillsDocumentary2010
Bran Nue Dae (Brand new day)Rachel PerkinsMusical2010
BuckskinDylan McDonaldDocumentary2013
BungalungTrisha Morton-ThomasDrama2007
Bush MechanicsDavid Batty, Francis Jupurrula KellyComedy1998, 2001
Case 442Mitch TorresDocumentary2005
Checkerboard LoveAnita HeissShort2004
Cold TurkeySteven McGregorDrama2002
Confessions of a HeadhunterSally RileyDrama2000
ConistonDavid Batty, Francis Jupurrula KellyDocumentary2012
Courting with JusticeDebbie CarmodyDocumentary2007
Crocodile DreamingDarlene JohnsonDrama2007
Croker Island ExodusSteven McGregorDocumentary2012
CustardMichelle BlanchardDrama2007
Daniel’s 21stAdrian Russell WillsDrama2009
Days Like TheseMartin Leroy AdamsDrama2007
Done Dirt CheapDebbie CarmodyComedy2007
DreamlandIvan SenSci-Fi2009
DustIvan SenDrama2000
Everything Looks BeautifulJenny FraserShort2010
Feel My AbsenceKyas SherriffShort2004
Fire TalkerIvan SenDocumentary2008
First AustraliansRachel Perkins, Darren DaleDocumentary2008
Fitzroy Stars: More Than a GameJohn HardingDocumentary2008
Fly Peewee FlySally RileyDocumentary1995
Freedom RideRachel Perkins, Ned R LanderDocumentary1993
Green BushWarwick ThorntonDrama2005
Gulpilil: One Red BloodDarlene JohnsonDocumentary2002
Harry’s WarRichard FranklandDrama1999
Here I AmBeck ColeDrama2010
HushDena CurtisComedy2007
In a League Of Their OwnSteven McGregorDocumentary2009
Intervention—2 Years OnSteven McGregorDocumentary2010
Island FettlersKelrick MartinDocumentary2006
Jackie JackieAdrian Russell WillsComedy2007
JacobDena CurtisDrama2009
Jandamarra’s WarMitch TorresDocumentary2011
JarlmadangahCornel OziesDocumentary2007
Jindalee LadyBrian SyronDrama1992
JourneyIvan SenDrama1997
Karlu Karlu - Devil’s MarblesDavid TranterDocumentary2009
KwatyeTrisha Morton-ThomasComedy2007
La Perouse PanthersMichael LongbottomDocumentary2006
Lani’s StoryGenevieve GrievesDocumentary2009
MaboRachel PerkinsDocumentary2012
Mad MorroKelrick MartinDrama2007
Making Samson & DelilahBeck ColeDocumentary2009
Marluku Wirlinyi - Kangaroo HuntersTimothy Japangardi Marshall, Craig Japangardi WilliamsDocumentary1998
Marn GrookSteven McGregorDocumentary1996
Milli MilliWayne BarkerDocumentary1994
MimiWarwick ThorntonComedy2002
Mirror ImagesDaniel KingDrama2001
Mr PatternsCatriona McKenzieDocumentary2003
My Bed Your BedErica GlynnDrama1998
My Brother VinnieSteven McGregorDocumentary2006
My Life As I Live ItEssie CoffeyDocumentary1993
My Survival As An AboriginalEssie CoffeyDocumentary1978
Mystery RoadIvan SenSuspense2013
Nalingu (Yours and Mine)Billy McPhersonShort2011
NanaWarwick ThorntonDrama2007
Nganampa AnwernekenhevariousDocumentary1987 - current
Nia’s MelancholySio Tusafa'aaefiliDrama2009
Nigger LoversRhonda HaganDocumentary2007
Night Cries: A Rural TragedyTracey MoffattDrama1990
Nin’s BrotherMary MunroDocumentary2010
No Fixed AddressJulie Nimmo, Tracey CallegariDocumentary2002
No Way to ForgetRichard FranklandShort1996
Nundhirribala’s DreamElla GeiaShort2009
One Night The MoonRachel PerkinsMusical2001
One River All RiversTom E LewisDocumentary2008
One Tree, One ManJedda PuruntatameriDocumentary2008
Over d-fenceDestiny DeaconDrama2004
Pay BackWarwick ThorntonDrama1996
Pioneers of LoveJulie NimmoDocumentary2005
Plains EmptyBeck ColeDrama2004
RadianceRachel PerkinsDrama1998
RalphDeborah MailmanDrama2009
Redfern Now (Series 1)Rachel Perkins, Catriona McKenzie, Wayne Blair, Leah PurcellSeries2012
Redfern Now (Series 2)Wayne Blair, Adrian Russell Wills, Beck Cole, Leah Purcell, Rachel PerkinsSeries2013
River of No ReturnDarlene JohnsonDocumentary2008
Sa Black Thing (Sa Blak Thing)Rima TamouComedy2005
Samson & DelilahWarwick ThorntonDrama2009
Satellite BoyCatriona MackenzieDrama2012
SharpeyeAaron Fa'aosoDrama2007
Shifting Shelter 3Ivan SenDocumentary2006
Shifting Shelter 4Ivan SenDocumentary2011
Sister, If You Only KnewJanet IsaacDocumentary1975
Spirit StonesAllan CollinsDocumentary2007
Stolen GenerationsDarlene JohnsonDocumentary2000
Stone Bros.Richard FranklandComedy2009
StorytimeJub ClercSuspense2007
Sunset To SunriseAllan CollinsDocumentary2006
Tales From The Daly: ‘Nauiyu Nambiyu’Steven McGregorDrama2010
TearsIvan SenDrama1998
The DarksideWarwick ThorntonSuspense2013
The Djarn DjarnsWayne BlairDrama2004
The FarmRomaine MoretonDrama2009
The ForgottenGlen StasiukDocumentary2003
The Gods of Wheat StreetWayne Blair, Catriona McKenzie, Adrian Russell Wills Series2013
The Intervention: Katherine, NTJulie NimmoDocumentary2008
The OpportunistsDaniel KingComedy2000
The Party ShoesMichelle BlanchardDrama2009
The SapphiresWayne BlairDrama2012
The Third NoteCatriona MackenzieShort2000
The Turning: Big WorldWarwick ThorntonShort2013
The TurtleKelli CrossDrama2007
Too LateMichael LongbottomDrama2007
Too Little JusticeDean FrancisShort2004
ToomelahIvan SenDrama2011
Two Big BoysJon BellComedy2007
UnstuckRayma JohnsonShort2005
Vote Yes for AboriginesFrances Peters-LittleDocumentary2007
Wanja: Warrior DogAngie AbdillaDocumentary2007
Warm StrangersIvan SenShort1997
When Colin met JoyceRima TamouDocumentary2007
Who Paintin’ Dis Wandjina?Taryne LaffarDocumentary2007
WindIvan SenDrama1999
YajilarraMelanie HoganDocumentary2009
Yellow FellaIvan SenDocumentary2005
Yolngu Guya DjamamirrFrank Djirrimbilpilwy GarawirritjaDocumentary2008

A lot of whitefellas in the press put shit on Aboriginal communities. That's one of the reasons why I make films.—Adrian Wills, Aboriginal director [2]

From traditional dreamtime tales to the challenges of contemporary Indigenous life, our film-makers give an insiders' view of what it means to be a Black Australian in the 21st century.—Rachel Perkins, Aboriginal director [8]

We’re not trying to educate people; we’re just trying to give them access to a life that they might not have ever seen before. That for me, is the beauty of what we do as filmmakers; that special thing of showing people a different world, and helping them one screening at a time.—Warwick Thornton, Aboriginal director [9]

Films by non-Indigenous directors

Click table headers to sort films by name, director, film type or year.

Film titleDirectorMovie typeYear
A Dying ShamePaul RoyDocumentary1997
A Northern TownRachel LandersDocumentary2008
Aboriginal RulesLiam CampbellDocumentary2007
After MaboJohn HughesDocumentary1997
Always Was Always Will BeMartha AnsaraDocumentary1989
Around the BlockSarah SpillaneDrama2013
AustraliaBaz LurmannEpic2008
Australia DazePat FiskeDocumentary1988
Australian RulesPaul GoldmanDrama2002
Babakiueria (“Barbecue Area”)Don FeatherstoneComedy1986
BackroadsPhillip NoyceDrama1977
Backs To The BlastHarry BardwellDocumentary1981
BastardyAmiel Courtin-WilsonDocumentary2008
Benny and the DreamersIvo BurumDocumentary1993
Between The Lines: The Initiation Of Adam HillMonica Garriga, Esther LozanoDocumentary2007
Beyond SorryDavid VadivelooDocumentary2003
Beyond The DreamtimeJohn LindDocumentary1994
Big BossPaul SinclairDocumentary2012
Black And WhiteCraig LahiffDrama2002
Black MagicPaul RobertsDocumentary1988
Black Man’s HousesSteve ThomasDocumentary1992
Blackfellas (Day of the Dog)James RicketsonDrama1993
BlowbackDavid HansenShort2009
Bran Nue Dae (musical)Tom ZubryckiMusical1991
Buffalo LegendsDes Kootji Raymond, Paul RobertsDocumentary1997
Buried CountryAndy NehlDocumentary2000
Burned Bridge (Heartland)Julian Pringle, Kate Woods, Paul Faint, Scott Hartford-DavisSeries2003
Bush BikesDavid VadivelooShort2002
Call me MumMargot NashDrama2006
Ceremony – The Djungguwan of Northeast Arnhem LandTrevor GrahamDocumentary2006
ContactBentley Dean, Martin ButlerDocumentary2009
Coolbaroo ClubRoger ScholesDocumentary1996
Dark ScienceJohan Gabrielsson, Warwick ThorntonDocumentary2008
Dead HeartNick ParsonsDrama1997
DeadlyEsben StormDrama1992
Dhakiyarr vs the KingTom Murray, Allan CollinsDocumentary2004
Dreaming Of LordsBob EllisDocumentary1988
Emily In JapanAndrew PikeDocumentary2009
EyeAndy Canny, Donna McCrumDocumentary2010
Fantome IslandSean GilliganDocumentary2011
First FootprintsBentley DeanDocumentary2013
Freedom Rides - 40 Years OnOliver LawranceDocumentary2011
From The AshesDean GibsonDocumentary2009
GamaradaMark TaylorDocumentary2012
HaroldStephen ThomasDocumentary1994
Heritage FightEugénie DumontDocumentary2013
How The West Was LostDavid NoakesDocumentary1987
In My Father’s CountryTom MurrayDocumentary2008
JABIRU 0886: TrespassDavid VadivelooDocumentary2002
JeddaCharles ChauvelDrama1955
JindabyneRay LawrenceDrama2006
Journey out of DarknessJames TrainorEpic1967
Kalkadoon ManBrendan FletcherDocumentary2004
KanyiniMelanie HoganDocumentary2006
Karrabing! Low Tide TurningLiza Johnson, Elizabeth A. PovinelliShort2012
KeeperAli RussellDocumentary2010
Link-Up DiaryDavid MacDougallDocumentary1987
LionelEddie MartinDocumentary2008
Liyarn NgarnMartin MhandoDocumentary2007
Lousy Little SixpenceAlec Morgan, Gerry BostockDocumentary1983
LuruguCurtis LevyDocumentary1973
Lurujarri DreamingBernadette Trench-ThiedemanDocumentary2013
Mabo - Life of an Island ManTrevor GrahamDocumentary1997
Mad BastardsBrendan FletcherDrama2011
Malbangka CountryCurtis LevyDocumentary1975
ManganinnieJohn HoneyDrama1980
Mixed BagImogen ThomasDrama2008
Mourning For MangatopiCurtis LevyDocumentary1974
MurundakNatasha Gadd, Rhys GrahamDocumentary2011
My Home The BlockTrevor AlmeidaDocumentary2009
My Uncle BlueyBritt ArthurDocumentary2009
Ningla A-Na (Hungry For Our Land)Alessandro CavadiniDocumentary1972
No Apologies RequiredAshley MorrisonDocumentary2011
No Fixed Address On TourJohn TatoulisDocumentary1990
Northern LightsAlastair McGibbonDocumentary2013
Nothing Rhymes with NgapartjiSuzy BatesDocumentary2010
Ochre and InkJames BradleyDocumentary2011
Old Country New CountryMark Jones, Alex PetersonsDrama2009
On the EdgeBenjamin RoseSeries2010
One People Sing FreedomBernice DalyDocumentary1988
One Shoe ShortJackie van BeekShort2008
Our GenerationSinem Saban, Damien CurtisDocumentary2010
Outback UnitedunknownDocumentary2012
Protected: The Truth About Palm IslandAlessandro CavadiniDocumentary1975
Queen of the DesertAlex KellyDocumentary2012
Rabbit Proof Fence/Long Walk HomePhillip NoyceDrama2002
Running to AmericaMatt Long, Steven McGregorDocumentary2011
Sacred GroundKim MavromatisDocumentary2007
SeptemberPeter CarstairsDrama2007
SerenadesMojgan KhademRomance2001
Shadow Of The BoomerangDick RossAdventure1960
Sisters, Pearls and Mission GirlsDavid BattyDocumentary2003
Sons of NamatjiraCurtis LevyDocumentary1975
Stone CountryMark AndersonDocumentary2006
Storm BoyHenri SafranDrama1976
TakeoverDavid MacDougall, Judith MacDougallDocumentary1979
Ten CanoesRolf de HeerDrama2006
The Chant of Jimmie BlacksmithFred SchepisiDrama1978
The CircuitCatriona McKenzieDrama2007
The Dream of LoveLawrence JohnstonDocumentary2005
The Fringe DwellersBruce BeresfordDrama1987
The House OpeningJudith MacDougallDocumentary1980
The Last WavePeter WeirSuspense1977
The Life of Harry DareAleski VellisComedy1995
The Naked CountryTim BurstallDrama1993
The Secret Country: The First Australians Fight BackAlan LoweryDocumentary1986
The Tall ManTony KrawitzDrama2011
The Tombstone OpeningFrances CalvertDocumentary2012
The TrackerRolf De HeerDrama2002
Think About ItRichard and Wendy FriarDocumentary2007
Three Boys DreamingMichael CordellDocumentary2010
Three HorsemenDavid MacDougall, Judith MacDougallDocumentary1982
Through Our EyesVera HongDocumentary2010
Triumph of the NomadsDavid MorganDocumentary1984
Trooper O’BrienJohn GavinDrama1928
TudawaliSteve JodrellDocumentary1987
Two LawsAlessandro Cavadini, Carolyn StrachanDocumentary1981
UncivilisedCharles ChauvelDrama1936
Unfinished BusinessPamela DonnellanDrama1999
Us MobDavid VadivelooSeries2005
UtopiaJohn PilgerDocumentary2013
Voices From The CapeDavid VadivelooDocumentary2008
WalkaboutNicolas RoegDrama1971
Walkabout With Malcolm DouglasMalcolm DouglasDocumentary1967-1985
Where The Green Ants Dream (Wo die grünen Ameisen träumen)Werner HerzogDrama1984
Why me? - Stories from the Stolen GenerationsRick CavaggionDocumentary2006
Wrong Side of the RoadNed LanderDrama1981
Yolngu BoyStephen JohnsonDrama2001
YudumNicholas ClearyDrama2011

[Aboriginal people are] one of the globe's invisible people. Most know them only from tourist ads, in which they appear almost as totems, evoking Outback exotica. A smaller number know some of their art, the colorful dot paintings of a strange, sunburned landscape. Yet there are few images that convey the humanity of Australia's struggling Aboriginal population, who [...] can seem invisible even at home. But that may be starting to change, thanks to the movies.—The Miami Herald, Dec. 15, 2002

If you have heard of a movie not listed here, please contact me.

$7.5m
Box office result of Bran Nue Dae in July 2010, which is the second best of the past 12 months [3].
$3.2m
Box office result of Samson And Delilah in July 2010, which puts the movie in sixth place [3].
25
Number of documentaries in the 1980s with Indigenous credits [5].
275
The same number for 2000 - 2010 [5].
1.2m
Number of TV viewers who watched Bran Nue Dae. Same number for Australia: 0.978 million [7].
0/1
Number of feature films/TV dramas with an Indigenous Australian in a key role in the 1970s [4].
9/16
The same numbers for 2000 - 2010 [4].
44
Number of shorts directed by an Aboriginal director in the 1990s [5].
169
The same numbers for 2000 - 2010 [5].

Movies listed for research

Many more films are out there. I’ve created a list of movies waiting for research where you might find a film not listed here.

Fact: The original versions of more than 90% of all Australian films made during the pre-1930 silent era are missing.

We've had plenty of so-called Aboriginal content created by non-Aboriginal producers, writers and directors. But the issue of Aboriginal control is paramount. Now is the time to invest in genuine Aboriginal screen culture as the unique film sector of tomorrow.—Michael Coughlan, director of an Aboriginal film skills training company [6]

Aboriginal actors eager

“People have to start from somewhere and you would be surprised how many Aboriginal people have a desire to be on the screen and give it a go,” says Aboriginal director Beck Cole. “If people keep casting the same people over and over again, we’re not going to build up that body of skills and people to draw on.” [6]

Last updated: 15 February 2014 | Out of respect for Aboriginal culture I use Indigenous sources as much as possible.

Article sources

Masthead image ©ourtesy Melanie Kuipers, http://www.sxc.hu.
[1] 'Shot from the heart', Deadly Vibe 147, 5/2009 p.5
[2] 'Tears, laughs and plenty more', Koori Mail 476 p.28
[3] SMH, 17/7/2010
[4] 'Filmmakers celebrated', Koori Mail 486 p.19
[5] The Black List: Film and TV projects since 1970 with Indigenous Australians in key creative roles
[6] 'Film strategy', Koori Mail 487 p.40
[6] 'Cole's debut feature film a part of Message Sticks', Koori Mail 499 p.6
[7] 'Networks hit movies', MX News 2/5/2011 p.2
[8] 'Festival hits the road', Koori Mail 500 p.30
[9] 'Samson and Delilah-Director's cut', Reconciliation News 8/2009 p.7

Creative Spirits acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional custodians of the land in which we live and work.

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