At first glance, it was an outdoor film night set in the yard of the local Aboriginal Corporation’s premises. Older folk were gathered in the back of the space on rows of chairs, while younger children sat cross-legged on sheets placed on the ground. The kids wanted to be as close to the action as they could. In this case, it was mobile projector screen.
The crowd that night was generous, for the small sleepy East Kimberley town. With a population of a little more than 700, there were 70 or so bodies gathered there, watching and waiting in anticipation. The evening was billed as a film festival, and for a festival it was difficult to accept that it was merely a few days earlier that the film makers showcasing their work that evening, had been capturing and processing their footage for the first time.
Children as young as seven, had sat in on workshops and had been taught how to use what had for them become everyday devices: iPads, mobile phones and iPhones – these would make their films.
Taking footage with these devices wasn’t particularly interesting, new or unique. They had done that before, plenty of times. The difference this time, would be that they would focus on ‘preparation’. Preparing a script, thinking about a structure for their stories, finding subjects to interview, and then thinking about how to make the best use out of their devices. The whole process brought a sense of structure and purpose that inspired them to look at devices they saw on a daily basis, with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm which was rewarded immediately with their outcomes being screened in front of their friends, family and community members.
I still remember the workshop I had held only a day prior to the film screenings. It was a morning session and my small class of three was made up of young and extremely shy teenage girls. Sending them on their way at the conclusion of our workshop, with some ideas for a film and some interview tips, I was skeptical about how far they would travel. It would only be a couple of hours later, while stepping into the local store for other business, that I would catch sight of the crew of three, in an isle, interviewing locals.
“What do you like about Wyndham?” they would ask their subject.
“What do you like doing here?”
The questions were asked confidently, and they were engaging with their subjects confidently.
It was a significant moment for me. In those seconds, one can come to appreciate, albeit at a surface level, what teachers might take from evident influence they have on their students: pride.
There, that evening of the film night, I would watch the faces of the girls from the workshop, as well as others I had worked with, as they sat glued to the films being screened from the projector. They were seeing their own work. They were seeing the immediate outcomes of their exploratory steps, as young film makers. In addition, they would watch a professionally developed film with “Satellite Boy” – which had been produced in that town, starring locals from the town. Making a film like this, was now a possibility, not beyond them.
There was something to be said for the opportunities that can connect a young mind with undiscovered potential, to the discovery of their talent and ability. There’s a truth that’s hidden in aspirations that have hardly ever been entertained, that speaks about what the future may still hold for some of Australia’s most disadvantaged kids: hope.