Darkside Otherside of Amazing!

Published On October 21, 2014 | By Artgaze | Events, Films, Projects

On July the 19th this year, Artgaze Lab Inc.  rolled out the red carpet for the Townsville premiere of acclaimed filmmaker Warwick Thornton’s film The Darkside. with the assistance of an Artslink Queensland Regional Arts Fund (RAF) – Regional Quick Response Grant,

Entertainment on the night included the Island Sensation Dancers and singer-song writer Luke Thomas. Luke Thomas recording’Tin man’ at the Rec Room Attendees looked very glamorous and happy as evidenced in the red carpet photos from the night. Guests enjoyed bush tucker catering on arrival, including kangaroo with bush spices, amongst other authentically Australian fare.

follow link here to Darkside Event Photos on Artgaze Magazine’s Facebook page.

The aim of the project, organised by Artgaze Lab Inc. event manager Jeanette Hutchinson, with actress Merwez Whaleboat, (who features in The Darkside) supported by Full Throttle Theatre Company, was to bring all of our community together to share an insight into Indigenous spirituality through a screening of a film that would not otherwise have been shown in Townsville. This was inspired by a conversation with Whaleboat who recalled that, while attending the Australian Film Industry (AFI) awards in Melbourne, she thought how wonderful it would be to have audiences in Townsville experience a similar event – in the form of a red carpet Indigenous film premiere.

Plans to realise this vision were underway, motivated by a desire to inspire our our local Indigenous communities in particular, to pursue their dreams in the arts – whether it be theatre, music or film or other artforms. The event also aimed to promote the importance of storytelling, and connecting with one another, whatever our cultural background. The night included a Question and Answer session with film industry identities including Merwez Whaleboat; The Darkside producer Kath Shelper (who travelled from Sydney to attend), and Indigenous elder and activist, Kenneth Dalton who also made the trip from his home base in Brisbane.

The documentary-style film is constructed around the telling of Indigenous ghost stories, related in a series of staged interviews with Indigenous and Non-Indigenous actors portraying the various storytellers. The film was developed from a national callout for Indigenous ghost stories, submitted by black and white Australians. Thornton narrowed down more than 150 stories into 13 short vignettes. The filmmakers combined three audio tracks recorded from original storytellers with the filmic segments featuring renowned Australian actors Deborah Mailman, Brian Brown, Jack Charles, Merwez Whaleboat, Sascha Horler, Claudia Carvan, Aaron Pedersen and Shari Tebbens.

Along with the film, the filmmakers of The Darkside have launched The Otherside, a companion website to the film, and an app for smartphones and tablets. The website calls for others to submit recordings of their stories to create an archive of Indigenous ghost stories from across the country. Producer Kath Shelper recorded several of our Townsville community’s ghost stories for inclusion on the site, including actor Gail Mabo’s story.

listen here>   Gail Mabo The Otherside story

The Q&A was very moving in unexpected ways. Participants told of their personal and profound experiences with the ‘other side’,that motivated some to make major changes in their lives. There were also some spooky but funny tales that had the audience thoroughly entertained. The local elders also shared information that related not just to the supernatural, but to the history of The Old Courthouse building itself (our venue for the screening) and the shameful past treatment of Indigenous people in Townsville.

Madonna Davies, Full Theatre Company’s President and an actor/director with the company, gave a heartfelt welcome after the official opening of the Q&A, and described the smoking ceremony traditional owners, performed during 2012 to clear the space of any negativity, and to protect visitors to the building.

Subsequently, an invitation was extended again to our Indigenous community’s actors, artists and story tellers to put themselves forward with their knowledge and skills, with the company’s artists at their disposal, to break the obstructive silence surrounding their history, and bring their voices and stories to the foreground. Since the event, that is exactly what has happened, with elders of Palm Island and their families driving their own Yarning Circle and Q&A recently about the Strikes of 1957 on Palm Island, a protest against the gross mistreatment of Island residents by the authorities of the era.

Our visiting guest speaker, elder Kenneth Dalton, gave us a wonderful insight on the night to the deep and abiding spirituality of his people, and their struggle to overcome prejudice and mistreatment. He also shared his personal journey and achievements, including his role as a political advisor to the Queensland Government, and as an activist during the 1960s and beyond. In the film, acclaimed Indigenous actor Jack Charles plays Kenny as an affable character, charming us as soon as he introduces himself as Kenneth Dalton, sitting alone at a long bar. Kenny was equally charming in real life, chatting his way into the hearts of his Townville audience.

As the Producer of Internationally acclaimed, locally made Australian films and other productions, Kath Shelper gave an inspiring insight into what exactly the job of a producer is. She was also able to give us a picture of what it is like to work with Thornton, an International artist and film maker, and gave us a brief overview of the interesting projects that they are working on currently.

Likewise, Merwez Whaleboat was able to inspire the audience with her journey from shy first time actor, to acclaimed Australian actor – accepting awards and attending premieres in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. She mentioned that this was the most special premiere of all because it involved the real life story of her first cousin Sogo, whom she portrayed in the film. Our Non-Indigenous audience was given an insight into the sacredness that surrounds Indigenous spirituality and how this connection transfers into everyday life.

Artgaze Lab Inc. would like to sincerely thank Robyn Lawton( Artslink QLD Funding Coordinator) for her invaluable advice, and Artslink for making this project possible. Non-profit arts organisations like Artgaze depend on a precarious balance of volunteers, the skills of generous artists and arts workers, our own fundraising efforts and public and private funding. Together we help to make the arts accessible to many people who otherwise would not get to experience contemporary art in all its diverse forms within our communities.

Artgaze Lab Inc., the publisher of artgazemagazine.com and the organisers behind Artgaze Film Club,  would also like to thank Full Throttle Theatre Company, particularly Laurence Backer,  for his production skills, all the volunteers, and the regular artgaze team – Amy Bishop, Carly Sheil, Aaron Ashley, David Hutchinson, Merwez Whaleboat, Todd Barty , Gabrielle Vacher, Yuka Asari, and everyone else who supported this event. Keep an eye out next year for our Walkabout film festival, in collaboration with and featuring entertainers the  Black Cherries. More about that will be posted soon here on our site, and on our Facebook page.

In the following excerpt Kath Shelper eloquently sums up the pleasure of being a guest and participating in the extraordinary night that was  the premiere of The Darkside in Townsville.

“ Dear Jeanette and everyone at Artgaze Lab Inc – the screening of The Darkside in Townsville was a total pleasure. I loved seeing so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the audience along with many Non-Indigenous people, who all appreciated the film together. Cinema is something we want to share with a group in a dark space, and what better dark space to share than your Courthouse? Telling ghost stories and spiritual tales – as our film The Darkside inspires people to do – is such a great way for people to connect both to each other, their culture and their pasts. You put on a great night, terrific hosts, and it felt like something special happened within your community. I feel so privileged to have been a part of that’.

{Kath Shelper, Producer Scarlett Pictures.}  Scarlett Pictures





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