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(generated from captions) This program is live captioned by Ericsson Access Services. Hello, I'm Karla Grant and welcome to this You Are Here, Point Interview Special. In this program, my guest is acclaimed cinematographer, director and screenwriter Warwick Thornton. Well, Warwick Thornton, thanks very much for joining me.Thank you, Karla.Or should I be thanking you for inviting me to your luxurious hotel room?Yes, my private hotel that I keep permanently in Sydney, absolutely.Your private suite?I wish, hey.Thanks very much for your time today. Tell us, I'm disappointed you're not wearing the jacket.Oh, the jacket.Yes, what happened to it?I've been told to get a new jacket. It's been - I don't want to sound like an idiot but people have said, "You've done way too many red carpets with that jacket."Well, I'm devastated...The Black el vase jacket -- Elvis jacket.Because it is your trademark.Yes, that and the cap. Well, we are here to talk about your latest film We Don't Need A Map, which is the second Indigenous film to have ever opened the Sydney Film Festival.That's very exciting. It is good because you're seeing this - you're seeing that Australia is very much interested in Indigenous subjects and that. It is becoming more and more. As Indigenous film-makers get better at making movies, there is a much bigger hunger out there for our films and festivals are recognising that, which is very exciting.In We Don't Need A Map you said that a few years ago you got a bit angry and you said a few things were troubling you at the time.Yeah.One of those things was that you felt that the Southern Cross was becoming the new swastika. Yeah...Crew tell me what you mean by that?Oh, just the rise of sort of nationalism and people trying to find a symbol to represent them and something that they can have and they can own that other people can't have. For me, the symbol, the idea of the Southern Cross was slowly turning into that sort of "us against them", that kind of nationalistic view of, ah, we and them, in a way. And it was getting used more and more. You know, the first time I seen a southern cross tattoo I thought it was querk -- quirky and really beautiful. Then you started seeing it more and more and then it started raising its heads in right-wing ways and that started to, in a way, worried me, people using it in that. ..In that way, I guess. So I mentioned it, um, to - I mean, it was a national newspaper. A lot of people got really upset about what I said. I thought it was going down that path. And it could become our version of a swastika. A lot of people got upset and I got really, really scared. And then I went and hid under my doona on the lounge nor a couple of years -- for a couple of years, I guess. How do you think people could use it as a modern day swastika?They're searching for connection and when they're searching for connection and you find something that really, really thinks make you feel you're different from other people, there is a danger that will turn into something nationalistic that you own something that other people don't own, and it makes you different. To create that idea is to actually, um, create a sort of amount of fear in a way. You know, a fear in - it generally comes out of the idea that you're fearful of what's happening to yourself and you're losing your identity, so you need to grab something and hold onto it and say, "This is mine. You can't have it." That will always turn into something slightly dangerous. You know. And be
we've seen symbols like the swastika be appropriated to do that. And then, what happens with that is, you know, is very dark parts of history were created. It is good we have, I want to have this conversation now before it happens. It may not happen but it is something we need to talk about to make sure it doesn't happen, I guess.So you believe some people may be using it as this symbol of...Oh, hell yeah, you know what I mean.A dangerous symbol.A dangerous symbol. It started off really as that way as a dangerous sim billion, well, for -- symbol, well, for non-Indigenous people, and the Eureka stockade, the making of that flag. Originally it was the birth of Australian democracy and kicking against the Empire, against the pricks in a way. But really, really quickly it turned not just into the British Empire, because we're Australian, but then very quickly it turned against the Chinese as well on the goldfield. That Southern Cross symbol was raised on the goldfield to kick the Chinese out just as much as it was to kick the British out who were taxing the miners way too much. Right from the beginning of its journey, it has had a lot of trouble?In terms of Indigenous Australians, what does Southern Cross mean to us?That's an awesome question because it means so many things so many different Indigenous people. We are talking 6000 different languages a -- 600 languages and not many are left now but that's 600 cultures, that's 600 lores. This place was more multicultural than the rest of the world pre-colonisation. We had so many tribes, so many languages. It tribes.
meant different things to various tribes.You explore the various things of rise of Hansonism and Howardism.Fear and you know, there is a new keyword calls Patriots, you know, that's a word the government is using you're in the a patriot. Where the hell did that come from? We're not America. You know what I mean? Those sort of strange key words that creates an us against them -- -- them. You're not allowed in this country unless you're a patriot. The funny thing is because of the dispossession of Indigenous people and the stealing of that land and all that, I probably would not call myself a patriot so I as an Aboriginal person in a country where they say, "You have to be a patriot to be Australian", you know what I mean, I guess I'm not a patriot so I'm not Australian. Is that which what mean es?how do these bizarre words come into our vocabulary that create divide, because they do. The word "patriot", it creates divide. You can switch the camera off.Yeah, I'll give you a hand.Good.So which way?Either way.For anyone who hasn't seen the film, they should obviously go out and see it.Yeah! If they haven't...Yeah. would you describe the film?A bit of bile, a bit hysteria, made by some dickheads. There's a couple of lies in it but 99% truth. I'm really proud of that. I'm really proud of the film as a whole. It doesn't hold any punches. It is very naughty. It is slightly hyperactive. It is full of great music. What ask I say? Um, I don't know, you know, you make films - you don't make. ..You try not to make films to actually swing people to whichever, um, worldly idea you're trying to align to. You just want to teach people, and make then make their own -- and they can make their own ideas up on whether what I have created is right and wrong, because that's the beauty of humanity. But you just want - knowledge is power, you know. For people to learn more about Indigenous culture, learn more about how this country was created, its linage and its history, and do it truthfully, people learn a lot more about who they are and where they come. That's an actual more powerful thing and they can make better decisions about how we are going. I don't want to make movies that, "Oh, us black fellas, we're totally right and all the white fella's they're totally wrong." That's backwards, that creates fear and that's wrong. You give people access to stories an information that they wouldn't have generally in texts or in history or, you know, online, and then they can make their own minds up. That's how I like to make movies and that's how I would like to think it was made. Having gone through the process of making the film, how do you feel about the Southern Cross What are you learned through this journey?It is really interesting whenever I've seen someone with a Southern Cross tattoo, just to start with that, that actual image, I always judge the book by the cover. Any time I see a Southern Cross tattoo I judged that person because they had that, they're one of them, you know what I mean, in a way? And that's wrong. People do need connection. You know, what it means, beers, blokes and bbqs is that Aussie term but it happens everywhere in the world. That's nothing new to Australia. I try to free myself from the idea that you put people in boxes. Us against them. So I try and fight my own prejudices with people with the Southern Cross tattoo. You know what I mean? They're just people who got them before Cronulla, or they're people who got them after Cronulla, you know, and all that kind of stuff. So I just try and get rid of my prejudices to do with the Southern Cross, and I learnt that in the movie, you know, by talking to people about belief and people got it because their grandparents fought in all these wars around the world, you know what I mean, and that's their way of, um, remembering. And that's fine, really, isn't it, you know? That connection is to their grarnts -- grandparents and that. But then there's the dickheads to put it on themselves to say "I am Aussie and you're not'. That stuff I wouldn't abias to but I still have the patience or to get rid of my prejudices towards people who put it on because of their grandparents who fought in the war and that's their way of trying to remember the connection that their family had.Do you now feel more connected to the Southern Cross...Nae. ..having gone through the process of making the film?Totally. Learning the Ylngu belief to do with it, the Warlpiri belief to do with it, that I have a much better connection to it. Yeah, that's by making the movie. Hopefully people who watch it can do that as well.OK. Enough about the movie. People want to know more about you. So as is the custom, who is your mob and where are you from?I'm Kaytetye which is basically, if you want a town, the closest town is a place called Barrow Creek, halfway between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs. I was born in Alice Springs in 1970 and I've basically lived in Alice Springs most of my life. But now that I make - got a bit more successful with movies and that, I spend a lot more time down here in Sydney because of post-production and, you know, all the bits and bobs that come with making movies. Yeah. Of course, your mother is Freda Glynn...No, she's not. (LAUGHS) Yes, my mother is Frda Glynn.She was one of the Founders co of CAAMA, the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association, and also one of the first directors or heads of Imparja television.Yes.So wurn could say you were born into this industry.I was, I was a DJ when I was 14 on CAAMA and then only because of CAAMA and a lot of other amazing human beings a lot of doors were opened for me. They created a video unit and then got a traineeship, a camera traineeship and did that through AFTRS here in Sydney. So, yeah, a lot of major things happened to me. In a strange way I was very fortunate that I couldn't kick a football. You know, I was terrible at sports.So you weren't into AFL?So don't care about sports. All my mates did and I think were all waiting for the bloody draft because they were all jean yusz at football and I can't even catch a ball so I picked up a system instead. That was a good thing for me.What was it that made you to get into film-making.To get out of Alice. To find a different wait out of Alice. I loved Alice, I loved its psychs - it's beers, bloke and barbecues and all our culture there, all the tribes Arrernte land. I loved it but I thought there would be more. It wasn't like I was born in a video store or I made my first movie on a super 8 camera when I was wonderful...
6-month-old or all those kind of wonderful...(LAUGHS) You weren't born with a camera, but it was something that developed... It developed. And it look hard work. This wasn't a natural gift. It has taken a lot of work, a lot of thinking, a lot of failures, you know what I mean? A lot of hard work to craft storytelling, to be able to - to become a storysteler in that way -- storyteller in that way.What are the challenges?You know, right at the beginning of making movies you really do, you have a fear and you want to be fantastic at it and the instant thing is that you start emulating everybody else. There's the popular feature films or documentaries or commercials, whatever. You basically - whatever's everyone is liking at the moment, you just start doing. One of the hardest challenges is to break that. And actually doing things that you really feel emotionally about and styles and forms and creating a new - a new form of storytelling, you know, that doesn't just emulate what's popular at the time. That's one of the biggest and hardest cycles to break. It's. ..As soon as you do that, and it works - because it can fail quite easily. You can just make crap, you know what I mean? People can say, "I have no idea what this bloke is on about", or "this woman is on about". That's the hardest stuff. What makes us unique, what makes us different to any other person who is making movies who is not Aboriginal. I'm still searching for that. I'm still searching for what makes me an Aboriginal film-maker. I am going to be Aboriginal all my life. I can't get rid of that one. Can't go and have a shower. ..You know what I mean? But I don't necessarily have to be a film-maker all my life... But nevertheless that's what you've showsen to -- chosen to do.Yes, and how do you make that uknee, that Indigenous storytelling. We had big storytellers in the tribe, and partly their job was to keep specific stories alive. I like to think that's what I'm translating.

And how something around it. How do you, you know, a tribe of 20 people around a campfire, or a succession campfire - you know, single men, single woman, married, elderers, all that stuff - how does someone tell a story and keep everybody enthralled just with their voice and the timings of what they're saying. I think that's really exciting. I'm looking at that, get rid of the cameras, get rid of the superstars, get rid of the cranes, and get rid of the effects and how do you keep an audience incredibly enthralled with a voice and maybe a face, like a campfire. That's a distilled version of what we're doing today with film-making. It was happening before, you know, a thousand years ago, and it seemed to work, and how can we translate that today. That's what I'm - that's going to be a hard one.Well, of course, storytelling is a huge part of our culture... Yeah. Oral history, God.And you've been very, very successful at that, and, of course, your first feature film, Samson and Delilah, was made to huge acclaim, received many accolades.Mmm.For that.Yeah, that was fun. That was a while ago. It was 10 years ago now, that movie. I should make something. I have a new one coming out soon called Sweet Country, a cowboy western set in 1929 in Central Australia. Lots of horses, lots of guns, lots of cowboy hats.Something very different to Samson and Delilah?Yes, tote Al, people actually speak in this one but I've always wanted to do a person. It is gic -- going to be fun.You've known for your cinematography but you're also a screenwriter and director as well. What do you like doing best? Cinematography, that's just fun. I shot Sapphires for Wayne Blair, I've done most of Wayne's films. Writing sucks. Directing sucks, you know what I mean. Cinematography is fun, especially when you have lots of toys.I was going to ask you about the figurineses -- figurenes you use in We Don't Need A Map.I've always wanted to do stuff with the Titjikala bush toy mob because that's art and when I first seen that in late '90s, I was going "I building
love this stuff" because they're building stuff that represents history in a way, the West is with the cowboys and the helicopters coming in laments to earlier eras. Recycling that stuff from the dump. I've always wanted to do something with them because I just love it. I have a whole collection of them at home over the years buying them and I always wanted to do something but I could never figure out what I wanted so I thought maybe I could make a feature just on a sandhill like a Western, but with the bush toys. But that never event waited it was just a silly idea. But then this came along and how do we tell - We Don't Need A Map, how do we tell history - I could get a couple of bush toys and then just go on a sanddown out of town and in five minutes tell the whole story just with my hands and using my voice, having these little bush toys, you know, going around "hey, what are you doing with my country". I had the patience for that and it could be quite reactionary...It is very effective as well.Yeah, it is kind of silly but then it tells you a lot of dark points in Australian history...A pay that's palatable, I guess, for people to understand? Yeah, absolutely. When that cowboy rides up and shoots the black fella in the movie "what are you doing in my country?" "Not your country", and bang, shoots him. Hey, what's this black fella doing on my country. Hey, you, you, you! Get off...No, this is my country, you get away or I'll shoot you. No, you can't shoot me, this is my mob's country.Arghhh!Stinkin prick! It's the most horrible bloody thing but in a strange way using bush toys, it is not palatable, I don't know, it survives it. If I did that with real actors, I think the audience... There is a fear they might turn off. Turn off. So to use those toys in a lighter kind of way, I think people engage more. It does hurt. They do get the actual reaction. They do react the right way to it. But then they can still hang in there. But if it was real life and some black fella got shot by some pastoralist, which happened a lot, people would just go "I'm not watching this anymore." It is too hard to think of history that way. So that's a good way to use bush toys or using animations and that rather than classic re-enactments, yes.How powerful is the art of film-making in terms of, you know, sharing our stories and educating audiences? It's - you know, it's the new form of our storytelling. It's using, using all of the mediums of today, you know, black fellas today are not the black fellas we were 200 years ago. We have complete connection to everything that we have. We still own whatever - we still are connected to wherever we come from, but we're very different people and we need to understand that using these mediums to actually tell stories is unbelievably important. And it's really important because, as we've talked before, knowledge, giving people knowledge, you know, I grew up, obviously, in a time of text, with no internet. You know what I mean? So the only knowledge you could get was the written text by someone else. Bar the oral history that your family were giving you through the traditional side of your world. So creating more information, um, gives people more knowledge, you know, so when I was growing up you couldn't - the only thing you could learn is what you got in your book at school, you know what I mean? Whereas today at school, school is such a much more dynamic place because that's not all - the only stuff you can learn now. Because you can Google the hell out of anything.Now, We Don't Need A Map, of course, opened the Sydney Film Festival. How is it being received?Really good. Everyone loves it, hey!That's a good thing! (LAUGHS) Are you relieved about that? Totally. I was basically ill the week before. It is a hard film. When I brought up the whole Southern Cross, swastika thing, a couple of years ago, and everyone got really upset, and this time I'm going a lot harder. They threw rocks at me, so I'm throwing hand grenades at them. So I'm going much harder. It puts you in the sights in a much bigger picture making a whole feature, not just a comment in a newspaper. This is a whole feature length documentary about that one little comment. I'm proud of the film, I only spoke the truth.What's next for Warwick Thornton?Sweet cop town try. The new feature. It has been shot, it's been edited, we've done the sound and we're colour grading at the moment and some special effects are happening. So that will be fun, a cowboy movie.Well, Warwick Thornton, it's been a pleasure talking to you today. So thanks