DER Documentary

The Redfern Story

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by Darlene Johnson
color, 60 min, 2014
in English


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By the early 1970s, the Sydney suburb of Redfern had grown to be the largest aboriginal community in Australia. Gradual revocation of reserve lands forced many to move to this affordable suburb, quickly overpopulating the area and resulting in tensions between the new inhabitants and police. Though a 1967 Referendum promised to provide long-awaited support to Aboriginal Australians, little changed, and many still struggled with daily experiences of racism and prejudice. In 1971, a small group of Redfern activists came together to seek out ways in which they could address the systematic oppression faced by their community.

The Redfern Story documents the crucial work of a group of Redfern activists who used theatre to bring the fight for indigenous rights to the larger public in Australia. Influenced by the Black Power movement in the United States, founder Bob Maza and his peers began their work with informal street theatre and protests in 1971. The project quickly grew as a creative outlet for the community, and its success developed in tandem with a number of other community-led organizations, including the Australian Medical and Legal Services. By its close in 1977, the National Black Theatre had become a hub for Aboriginal activism extending beyond theatre. The film combines interviews with community activists, archival news, and performance footage to offer a historically rich look at the emerging indigenous rights movement in Australia.

Filmmaker Darlene Johnson experienced Redfern and its vibrant theatre scene as a child growing up in the community in the early 1970s. The Redfern Story is her tribute to this significant part of modern Aboriginal history which until now has been virtually undocumented.

“A fascinating collection of stories told with passion and humour about a politically explosive and culturally important chapter of Australian history.” Sydney Morning Herald
“This is an extraordinary film that shines a light on otherwise unknown aspects of Australian history. As such it should be an important inclusion in the education curriculum in all schools and universities throughout Australia.” — Dr. Gary Foley

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Winner, Best Documentary - Social & Political Issues, ATOM Awards, 2015
Durban International Film Festival, Durban, South Africa, 2016
Skabmagovat Film Festival, Finland, 2016
The People's Film Festival, Harlem, NY, 2016
Hawaiian International Film Festival, 2015
Margaret Mead Documentary Film Festival, New York, 2015
Sydney International Film Festival, 2014

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