Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival Sydney 2013

14th Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival program

Venue: Sydney Opera House, Playhouse. The festival then tours nationally.

Sydney is host to the Indigenous Film Festival since its inception in 1999. The festival premiers a fine selection of Aboriginal films in drama, documentary, comedy and shorts, often followed by a short question and answers (Q&A) session. Many of the film reviews you find on this site come from my visits to the Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival which is very popular.

The wonderful thing about Message Sticks is that you get to see what issues are at the forefront of Indigenous filmmakers' hearts and minds.—Sally Riley, Manager Indigenous Branch, Australian Film Commission [#1 'Film tour ends', Koori Mail 415 p.53]]

Saturday, 23 March 2013


3.45pm | David Batty, Francis Jupurrula Kelly | Australia 2012 | 57 min
More than 80 years after the brutal slaughter of 100 or more Aboriginal people in Central Australia, survivors and their descendants tell their story in Coniston.

Black Man’s Houses

5.45pm | Steve Thomas | Australia 1992 | 58 min
More than a hundred years after the Tasmanian Aborigines were declared extinct, their descendants set out to reclaim the lost graves of their ancestors on Flinders Island in Bass Strait.

The neglected burial site at Wybalenna (or ‘Black Man’s Houses’) which, in the 1830s was Australia’s first segregated Reserve, is now a battleground dividing a community.

Although set on a tiny island, Black Man’s Houses has major relevance in a post-colonial world which has underestimated the ability of Indigenous cultures to evolve, to adapt and to incorporate their conquerors.

Croker Island Exodus

7.45pm | Steven McGregor | Australia 2012 | 65 min
1942, Croker Island, Arafura Sea - as the Japanese bomb Australia’s North, 95 Aboriginal children and their missionary carers make a remarkable journey to safety across the Australian continent.

The party sets off on a journey that takes them from Croker Island off the North Coast of Australia through Arnhem Land to the edge of Sydney.

They travel for 44 days and 3,000 miles by foot, boat, canoe, truck and train. This is their story, in their own words, a truly heroic and untold journey of human endurance, strength and resilience.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Emma Donovan & Kerrieanne Cox: Defining Moments

In this duet of doco screenings teamed up with a lively Q&A session, you will explore the defining moments of two of our best-loved artists, revealing them to be fascinating people whose lives were profoundly shaped by pivotal personal events.
Presented in association with NITV.


4.45pm | Steven McGregor | Australia 1997 | 26 min
The multi-award-winning short film Apekathe, written and directed by Steven McGregor, joined in a Q&A at the end of the screening by Message Sticks Festival Artistic Director Rhoda Roberts. Meaning “fair skin” in the Arrente language, Apekathe examines how Aboriginal people are judged by their colour and why it’s vital that white Australia is aware of the importance of Aboriginal identity.


6.45pm | Merata Mita | New Zealand 1988 | 90 min
Mauri was the first feature film to be written, directed and produced by a Maori woman, the late Merata Mita. Set in an obscure coastal town, it delves into a changing way of life, love and an ever-present cultural friction.

Unnatural and Accidental

9pm | Carl Bessai | Canada 2006 | 58 min
Unnatural & Accidental is the feature length dramatic film adaptation of the stage play entitled The Unnatural and Accidental Women by renowned Metis playwright Marie Clements.

It is based loosely around the “unnatural and accidental” alcohol overdose deaths of native women living on skid row. Rebecca has returned home to be with her dying father.

His last wish is that she track down her mother, an Aboriginal woman who has long been missing. As she turns over the stones that hide the debris of the unwanted and forgotten, she is drawn into the mysteries of ten missing native women whose spirits lead Rebecca to the killer who still haunts the alleys, streets and hotels of this urban wasteland.

More Aboriginal films

Explore more than 230 Aboriginal movie reviews or check out one of the past film festivals:

Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival - Opera House and a sign of the festival bathed in late afternoon sun. Message Sticks Film Festival. The audience gets the chance to have questions and answers with the film makers at the end of each film.