Black Panther Woman recounts Marlene Cummins’ journey when in 1971 she fell in love with the sharp-talking leader of the Australian Black Panther Party, Denis Walker.
The little known Brisbane chapter of the Black Panther Party was inspired by the American Panthers. They adapted their politics, militant black leather outfits and defiant attitude. Like their American comrades, they also raised the attention of the police.
Yet the Australian chapter had just 10 members. In one year, this group of young Aboriginal people staged educational theatre shows, kept watch on the police with ‘pig patrols’ and were at the forefront of demonstrations including the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
Cummins’ vulnerability and her belief in the movement made her a target for men in power. She recalls the incident of her rape, after which she made the difficult decision to stay silent. Dedicated to the cause and distrustful of police, she, like many other Aboriginal women facing abuse, chose to stay silent to protect the movement from criticism.
Following the break-up of her relationship with Walker, she spiralled into a cycle of addiction that left her on the streets.
Forty years later, and still struggling with addiction, Black Panther Woman sees Marlene Cummins looking back on her involvement in the Aboriginal protest movement from her housing commission flat in Redfern. It culminates in her emotional journey to New York for a gathering of international Black Panthers.
This unflinching documentary is a journey through the underbelly of Black experience in the volatile period of the 60s and 70s, from an insider’s perspective of a Black Panther woman.
Directed by multi-award winning filmmaker Rachel Perkins and produced by Blackfella Films, the company behind the documentary series First Australians, the telemovie Mabo and landmark drama series Redfern Now.
- Marlene Cummins
- Release dates
- 12 June 2014 - World Premiere, Event Cinemas George Street, Sydney
1 November 2015 - SBS television
- R18+ - Restricted
- SBS International
- Antony Partos
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