Wednesday 21 March 2018

CINEMA REBORN - Episodes from Ian Dunlop's monumental documentary series PEOPLE OF THE AUSTRALIAN WESTERN DESERT (Australia, 1966-1969)

Most people who have seen anything at all of Ian Dunlop’s remarkable documentaries have seen his hour long film Desert People, a condensation of the first 10 episodes that were shot in 1965. 

Ian Dunlop’s notes about the first film-making expedition in 1965 advise:
Approximately 25,000 feet of 35mm black and white film was shot. I cut this into ten record films, PEOPLE OF THE AUSTRALIAN WESTERN DESERT Parts 1-10, with a total running time of approximately 3 hours. These fall into three clear sections (i) Parts 1 and 2 - Djagamarra and his family whom we met in the desert; (ii) Part 3 - restricted material; and (iii) Parts 4 to 10 - Minma and his family, who were then living at Warburton Mission and agreed to return to their own country for filming.

"From this material I also made a more interpretive “day in the life of” film, DESERT PEOPLE, using footage from the daily life sequences in the other films."

DESERT PEOPLE went on to win prizes at home and abroad including:
Prix Special du Comite Directeur: IX Recontre Cinematographique Internationale de Prades, 1967.
Diploma of Merit: Edinburgh International Film Festival, 1967.
Golden Bucranium (best film of festival): XII International Festival of Scientific and Educational Films, Padua, 1967.
Special Citation (out of competition): Australian Film Awards, Australian Film Institute, 1968.
Diploma of Merit: Melbourne Film Festival, 1969.
Blue Ribbon (First Prize in Anthropology and Archaeology section): 11th American Film Festival, New York, 1969.
Golden Decade Award: U.S. Industrial Film Festival, Chicago, 1971.

Ian Dunlop and the NFSA Award for Film Preservation
In 2009  Ian Dunlop OAM was honoured with the 2009 National Film & Sound Archive  of Australia (NFSA) Award for Film Preservation. The award acknowledges the importance of his work safeguarding films about Australia's Indigenous culture, 

The CINEMA REBORN screening will comprise two full episodes, one from the first series mentioned above and one from the second series derived from a second expedition.

Ian Dunlop’s notes take up the story:

"Two years later, in 1967, a Native Affairs Officer from the Weapons Research Establishment, Bob Verburgt, told me he had met three families living a nomadic hunter/food-gatherer life some 180 kilometres northwest of our 1965 filming location. Following this information I submitted a further film proposal to the CFU and the AIAS along the lines of the 1965 proposal. This was accepted and I mounted a second expedition again with Richard Tucker as cameraman, Paul Porter Djarurru as guide, and with Chris McGill as production assistant.

"A further nine films, PEOPLE OF THE AUSTRALIAN WESTERN DESERT Parts 11-19, were made from material filmed on this trip. Like the earlier films, these were all 35mm black and white (except Part 19, which was shot in colour). Part 12 of this second series, AT PATANTJA CLAYPAN, is a general daily life film (equivalent to DESERT PEOPLE from the 1965 trip)."

Episodes from People of the Australian Western Desert will screen at CINEMA REBORN on Sunday 6 May at 2.30 pm.

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