This documentary series was shot before “reality TV” became a popular fashion, but has all the raw power of the best of that genre. Filmed with great intimacy and honesty, On The Edge follows a group of young Indigenous teenagers from Western Sydney over a period of two months as they take a physical, emotional and spiritual journey to discover their cultural heritage.
Under Fran Dobbie’s guidance, assisted by Aboriginal broadcaster, Alec Doomadgee, the group members are given rare opportunities to build self-esteem and resilience and to develop a sense of personal identity.
Special guests such as Jessica Mauboy and Anthony Mundine participate in the series to talk with the group, and help widen their own perception of their place in the world as Indigenous Australians.
For a series about teenagers, each episode is filmed in a style to which teenagers can directly respond, full of lively camerawork, fast editing and strong music. The families of the participating teenagers also appear in the series to give a wider context for their experiences and their personal development.
On The Edge is an important series that aspires to be a catalyst for the participants’ personal transformations during the making of the 13 episodes. It is also important as a model for engaging young people pro-actively in a creative process that embodies respect for their individuality and talent.
13 episodes - 26 minutes each
Episode 1 – the teenagers are introduced to us, and go for a boat trip around Sydney Harbour and meet didgeridoo player, Glen Doyle. They also learn some Aboriginal dance movements.
Episode 2 – a workshop with two role models - comedian and dancer, Sean Choolburra, and singer Jessica Mauboy. A mock talent show is staged with everyone doing dance moves of their own.
Episode 3 – More quality time with Jessica Mauboy, then workshopping with the hip hop group, Street Warriors, where the group writes and records their own rap lyrics. Alan has difficulties when he meets his father for the first time.
Episode 4 – checking into a hotel on the coast triggers in-fighting and dramas within the group, and Fran struggles to bring everyone back together. Eventually, team spirit seems to be strengthened in the process.
Episode 5 – the group workshops with graffiti artist Phat Jay and spray-paint designs on the “On the Edge” van. Dance moves follow with hip hop choreographer, Darrio, and rap singing with MC Phreaze who performs the “On the Edge” song with them. Alan meets his father again. Fran is angry about the theft of spray cans and calls a group meeting to discuss respect for other people and their property.
Episode 6 – a visit into the bush to Challenge Ranch where the kids enjoy outdoor activities. They then participate in a “self-awareness” session led by Fran which causes a challenge for Norma-Jean. An Aboriginal Elder, Aunty Lila Kirby, joins them to talk about traditional values and shares a quiet evening by the campfire with them.
Episode 7 - Day Two at Challenge Ranch: an early morning walk prompts two of the girls, Norma-Jean and Lillian, to assess their lives. After vigorous orienteering, the group celebrates Courtney’s 13th birthday, and we hear about her family and her own prejudices towards other Aboriginal people. The day ends with Fran leading the group in dancing.
Episode 8 – the girls and boys meet separately to talk about sensitive subjects especially relationships. The girls are mentored by Fran, the boys by Alec Doomadgee. The girls bond strongly talking about abuse, violence and rape. The need for trust, respect and honesty is strongly expressed, and the need to have access to support networks. The boys are more reticent but also bond.
Episode 9 – the group meets with champion boxer Anthony Mundine. Mundine gives them life lessons and talks about his aspirations to help Aboriginal people. The group discusses fighting and bullying.
Episode 10 – the girls meet model Samantha Harris who talks about her experience as a young Aboriginal woman in the modelling business. The girls then go for a professional photo shoot at a commercial studio and are “glammed up” for the occasion. Previously shy, Kayla is especially interested in a modelling career, and receives advice from Samantha’s management agency, Chic Management.
Episode 11 – a visit to Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park. Alec Doomadgee talks with the boys about being an Aboriginal man and the traditional significance of initiation. Tyren, Corey and Arthur talk about the challenges of living up to their own expectations and those of their parents.
Episode 12 – preparation and performance of a show for the community including parents and Elders. Personal dramas come to the fore, including Courtney’s experiences with domestic violence. Fran discusses the personal journeys of some of the group members.
Episode 13 – a survey of the highlights of the OTE series – we see some of the people met by the group and the activities in which they engaged. Some personal dramas are re-visited, and we learn what has happened to the members of the group since the end of the show.
- Norma Jean Dargin
- Release dates
- 2010 - Australia
- Video/DVD release date
- February 2013
- PG - Parental guidance
- Ronin Films
Find "On the Edge" on DVD or BluRay
Disclosure: I get commissions for purchases made through some of the below links.
Explore more Aboriginal movies
Explore movie history with the Aboriginal film timeline.
Take the quiz: Are you an Aboriginal movie buff?