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National Reconciliation Week 2024 – SA First Nations creatives at Cannes

29 May 2024
South Australian First Nations screen creatives Travis Akbar, Nara Wilson and Josh Trevorrow recently travelled to Cannes for the Marché du Film. Background artwork by Gubbi Gubbi artist Maggie Douglas for NRW 2024.

As we mark National Reconciliation Week 2024, the SAFC is proud to showcase three talented First Nations South Australian screen creatives who have recently returned from the world’s largest film market – the Marché du Film at the prestigious Festival de Cannes.

Travis Akbar, Nara Wilson and Josh Trevorrow were part of a delegation of 10 South Australian filmmakers who travelled to the internationally renowned market this month, led by Adelaide Film Festival (AFF) and supported by the SAFC.

The filmmakers participated in a suite of activities incorporating a curated roundtable program, networking activities and a screening showcase, all designed to help connect them to the global market.

The theme for National Reconciliation Week (NRW) 2024 is “Now, more than ever”. Now, more than ever, the SAFC is committed to our aims to champion First Nations South Australian screen creatives and strengthen the capacity, creativity and connectedness of the First Nations South Australian screen sector through our First Nations Screen Strategy. The SAFC was pleased to directly fund the participation of two First Nations screen creatives in the AFF Goes to Cannes initiative.

Scroll down to meet Travis, Nara and Josh and learn more about them.

SA filmmakers with Arts Minister Andrea Michaels and AFF CEO Mat Kesting in Cannes as part of the 2024 AFF Goes to Cannes initiative
SA filmmakers with SA Arts Minister Andrea Michaels (center) and AFF CEO and Creative Director Mat Kesting (right) in Cannes as part of the 2024 AFF Goes to Cannes delegation.

Travis Akbar

Writer and director Travis Akbar is a Wongutha man based on Peramangk country in the Adelaide Hills.

Filmmaking started out as a hobby for Travis, but an opportunity to write film reviews in 2017 gave him his first break into the industry. With mentoring from Hollywood-credited writer Steph Lady (Frankenstein, Golden State), he moved into screenwriting and since then has been selected for prestigious screen industry initiatives including the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) State and National Talent Camps, the Australians in Film UNTAPPED program, and the SAFC, AFF and Screen Australia Film Lab: New Voices program. In 2022 he was awarded the Documentary Australia Centralised Indigenous Fellowship, and in 2024 attended the Screen Forever conference as part of Netflix and Screen Producers’ Australia’s Broad Horizons initiative.

Travis Akbar on the set of The Red.

His credits include several documentaries and award-winning short film Tambo, made as part of the SAFC’s First Nations Short Film Initiative, which premiered at the inaugural SXSW Sydney and screened at AFF 2023.

Travis describes the South Australian screen industry as a “supportive sector for emerging creatives.”

“I love that I am coming up at the same time as a number of other First Nations creatives that I am able to work with and grow with,” he said.

Cannes was Travis’ first time overseas – he obtained a passport just for the trip – and he says it was an “amazing privilege” to be part of a delegation with filmmakers he has such respect for, particularly Nara and Josh.

He spent his time there participating in the “fantastic” industry development program which included masterclasses from international speakers, attending private events with producers he’s worked with before, and wandering the marketplace to get a handle on how it works, ready for the next time he attends.

Travis also met with sales agents and distribution companies to discuss his current slate, which includes two feature films, one with some “deadly stars” already attached and another called Corrugated that he is writing now.  

Having returned from Cannes just in time for National Reconciliation Week, Travis says it represents a significant opportunity for First Nations engagement.

“It’s important that this week exists as a baseline for First Nations engagement. It won’t solve everything, but it will help with the general population’s understanding, economic participation, recognition, cultural awareness and acceptance,” he said. 

Josh Trevorrow

Producer, director and documentary filmmaker Josh Trevorrow is a proud Ngarrindjeri man who says his “mandate is to champion First Nations talent”.

Josh got his start in screen in 2019 through the SAFC and Screen Territory’s Centralised program, an initiative supporting First Nations filmmakers and screen creatives in South Australia and the Northern Territory, later going on to work as an attachment in the electrics department on 2021 blockbuster Mortal Kombat. He was awarded the 2021 Documentary Australia Centralised Indigenous Fellowship, developing his documentary Kondoli, which he produced and co-directed along with documentary Keep Yarning Strong. Josh was shortlisted for the 2022 SAFC, AFF and Screen Australia Film Lab: New Voices program and in 2023 his project Blak Coffee was selected for the Screen Australia SBS Digital Originals development initiative. He has also worked as a short film programmer, including for the Art Gallery of South Australia and for Country Arts South Australia’s Nunga Screen.

Josh Trevorrow at the SAFC’s Adelaide Studios.

Josh now helms South Australian production company Untold Productions and is currently working on “a slate of various projects across both scripted and unscripted formats in both short and long form, feature and episodical formats”.

Josh says his favourite thing about working in the South Australian screen industry is “the opportunity to elevate First Nations voices and share our uniquely South Australian stories”. He has a particular passion for authenticity: “I admire any filmmaker who stays true to their vision through authenticity and being genuine,” he says.

Josh says his main aim in Cannes was to “strengthen my networks”. He networked with other filmmakers and met with sales agents, distributors and festival directors and returned with greater pitching experience – “and jet lag”, he laughs.

He found the culture of Cannes to be a real highlight of the trip, immersing himself in the “unique and vibrant atmosphere”.

Reflecting on National Reconciliation Week, Josh said it was a particularly important week for his short film program Nunga Screen, at Country Arts South Australia, which tours the state between NRW and NAIDOC Week.

Nara Wilson

Producer Nara Wilson is a proud Wirangu, Kokatha and Larrakia woman who lives and works on Peramangk country in Mount Barker, South Australia.

She first discovered her passion for the screen industry in high school, when she completed work experience with First Nations-run independent TV station IMPARJA. She went on to study screen at Flinders University and later worked for the SAFC, playing a key role in developing and delivering the agency’s First Nations Screen Strategy.

Nara Wilson speaks at a SCREEN FOREVER conference.

In July 2023 Nara returned to industry, and is now Company Director of BiRiny, producing First Nations animation and documentary stories for the screen. Her current slate includes feature documentary Kumerangk, which is being produced by Country Arts South Australia, about the controversial Hindmarsh Island Bridge development near Goolwa, South Australia, a site of cultural significance for Ngarrindjeri people. She is also Associate Producer at South Australian animation studio Vishus Productions.

Nara appreciates the community-minded nature of the South Australian screen industry, saying: “Everyone is generally willing to help each other out which is unique and awesome. It’s less of a competitive feel, but rather a supportive and encouraging state.”

She credits other First Nations female producers like Pauline Clague (Primal, Nia’s Melancholy), Lee-Ann Buckskin (The Leftovers, Storm Boy), Karla Grant (Living Black) and Freda Glynn for paving the way for the next generation.

Nara says being selected to participate in AFF’s Cannes delegation was a “dream come true”.

“The exposure and access we had to network with international stakeholders is incredibly useful to advance our careers no matter what stage we are at. It was also a rare opportunity to get to know my SA filmmaking cohort better as well, and I’m grateful to know them better now too,” she said.

In Cannes Nara split her time between the AFF program, meetings with sales agents and animation studios, networking lunches and functions and, when she had any downtime, she would see a film. Sister Midnight, an Indian comedy featuring a “great 70s rock soundtrack” was a highlight.

When asked about her favourite South Australian made film or series, Nara names Adult Swim animated comedy series YOLO Crystal Fantasy, which features work by SA creative studio Monkeystack. She also pays homage to 1975 documentary Sister If Only You Knew, which examines the pressures of city life on First Nations women transitioning from life in missions to the city.

Nara calls National Reconciliation Week an “important date in our calendar as a time to stop and reflect and see how far we as First Nations peoples have come, whilst acknowledging there is still a lot more work to be done in our communities.”

“We can acknowledge this past year particularly with the referendum. It’s not been an easy time for us but there is hope and I feel that’s what this year’s theme reiterates. ‘Now, more than ever’ reminds us that, no matter what, the fight for justice and the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will – and must – continue.”

SAFC staff celebrate NRW 2024

SAFC staff were pleased to attend the NRW breakfast in Adelaide this week, which attracted a crowd of more than 2,800 people. Presented by Reconciliation SA, the event was hosted by actor Luke Carroll with presentations by The Hon Kyam Maher MLC and keynote speaker Adam Briggs, Yorta Yorta man and rapper, lyricist, hip-hop artist and writer.

SAFC staff at the National Reconciliation Week breakfast 2024.
SAFC staff at the 2024 National Reconciliation Week breakfast in Adelaide this week: Helen Hage, Emma Henderson, Charne Magor, Alex Knopoff, Kate Croser, and Tyme Childs.
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