bfm guest, Ishmahil Blagrove answers a few questions after yesterday’s screening of his documentary, This is Our Country Too. Moderating is ttff director, Marina Salandy Brown
Hello readers, first of all I’d like to apologise for the fact that this post is a day late (hopefully it’s not also a dollar short). We’ve had a busy few days at the festival, so much so that the proliferation of panels and Q&As; have meant that I’ve spent a good part of my days scribbling furiously in cinemas and conference rooms, rather than at home typing.
ANYWAY. Yesterday afternoon we kicked off our ttff/bfm screenings at MovieTowne, POS with the documentary, This is Our Country Too, an educational and downright anger-provoking look at how years of misguided, oppressive and racist official policies have led to the formation of two Australias: One, the wealthy, progressive nation that most outsiders see; the other, the Australia of marginalised Aboriginal communities, beset by a host of problems. Present at the screening was director Ishmahil Blagrove, who answered a few questions after the film.
As with many of our documentary Q&As; thus far, the first question raised was why Blagrove chose to make this film. He responded by saying he felt that “the presence of Afro-Asiatic individuals in that part of the world has been excluded from the wider Diaspora.” Blagrove’s company, RiceNPeas Films, is committed to telling stories of the African individual, not just from the Diaspora but around the world.
Blagrove then spoke a bit about the making of the film, which took three months to shoot, partially due to the difficulty of negotiating a country as vast as Australia but also because of the difficulty of penetrating the culture of the Aborigines who were, understandably, a bit wary of outsiders documenting their lives. He spoke of wanting to film a coming-of-age ceremony and being refused access until one of elders was consulted and he adopted into the clan.
One parallel drawn by an audience member was of the parallels between the Aborigines’ story and that of Blacks and slavery. Blagrove then talked a bit about how important it is that we are able to negotiate a changing world, and that we can’t cling to our puristic views any longer. At the end of This is Our Country Too, there is footage of Australian PM, Kevin Rudd making a formal, public apology to the Aboriginal community. Around that time, there was a lot of excitement and hope for the future of the divided country, but little has changed since then.
On the issue of exploring hypocrisy, Blagrove noted that this is the main issue about debate and discussion—that it “brings forward new stories and perspectives and creates further dialogue,” just one of the reasons he makes the films that he does. The director also spoke about how angry he would become filming some of the stories he had, citing as an example his documentary, Blood Diamond, which came some five years before the Hollywood movie of the same name. Being in Sierra Leone during the war, he wanted to save people but found that it was beneficial to become desensitized and detached. “Our experiences make a story subjective,” he noted. I wanted to be as objective as possible in order to tell the story.”
A quick note again to mention that the ttff this year welcomes a few members of the bfm and the bfm, in turn, will host a few local and regional filmmakers during their November film festival in London.
A still from Blagrove’s documentary, This is Our Country Too
bfm guests at MovieTowne after the screening (from left to right): Lawrence Coke (filmmaker), Ishmahil Blagrove (filmmaker), Nadia Benton (bfm festival director) with Jamaican/US filmmaker, Steve McAlpin