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SA documentary Black Empire commissioned for NITV as part of Curious Australia initiative

31 January 2022
L-R: The creative team of Black Empire - Johanis Lyons-Reid (photo by Piri Eddy), Piri Eddy (photo by Johanis Lyons-Reid), Lilla Berry, Pearl Berry
The creative team of Black Empire (L-R): Johanis Lyons-Reid, photo by Piri Eddy; Piri Eddy, photo by Johanis Lyons-Reid; Lilla Berry and Pearl Berry.

South Australian First Nations led documentary Black Empire is one of seven standalone half-hour documentaries announced today by SBS and National Indigenous Television (NITV) to be commissioned through the nationwide Curious Australia initiative.

In partnership with Screen Australia, and state and territory agencies Film Victoria, Screen NSW, Screen Queensland, Screen Tasmania, Screen Territory, Screenwest and the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC), Curious Australia supports screen practitioners from under-represented backgrounds in the sector to amplify their authentic, enlightening and powerful  stories on Australian screens.

Black Empire (South Australian Film Corporation)
After a successful but exhausting career fighting prejudice, racism, and exploitation in the Australian Music Industry, rapper Jimblah embarks on his latest project, BLKMPIRE, aiming to reimagine how the music industry can work. But can he transform the country through black song, or will the staid traditions of an exploitative industry rear their heads? 

Director: Johanis Lyons-Reid
Writer/Director: Pearl Berry
Writer/Producer: Piri Eddy
Producer: Lilla Berry 

From other states, SBS has also commissioned Run Girl (Screen NSW), The Alexander Ball (Screen Queensland), We Are Sexual Beings (Film Victoria), and Whatever Scares You (Film Victoria), with Sistas in Mining (Screen Queensland) and Unlocked (Screen NSW) commissioned to premiere on NITV, along with Black Empire.

Criteria for Curious Australia applications included two key creative roles on a project being held by people from an under-represented background, including those identifying as First Nations Australians; women, those with diverse age backgrounds; people from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds; people living with disability; people of diverse sexuality and gender identities including LGBTQIA+; people from under-represented locations (including regional and remote areas); and people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds.

Each documentary was selected for its reflection of the SBS Charter and its innovative exploration of issues relevant to contemporary Australia.

Bernadine Lim, Commissioning Editor of Documentaries at SBS, said: “The response to Curious Australia was fantastic, we received a large number of submissions with exciting, untold stories from incredible up-and-coming storytellers. Curious Australia is an exciting new addition to our factual offering across the SBS network, providing a unique opportunity for mid-level and emerging documentary-makers to tackle contemporary Australian stories and issues, while also supporting the development of diverse creative talent in the sector.”

Marissa McDowell, Commissioning Editor at NITV, said: “We’re really looking forward to seeing these bold and unique stories from First Nations documentary makers across Australia uncovered through this initiative, come to life on our screens. We’re pleased to be ensuring that under-represented storytellers have a platform for their perspectives to inspire all Australians.”

Screen Australia’s Head of Documentary, Alex West, said: “These unique stories offer insight into a range of contemporary issues and they showcase the powerful filmmaking talent we have around the country. We are proud to support Curious Australia and I can’t wait for these documentaries to engage audiences on SBS and NITV this year.”

Kate Croser, SAFC CEO, said: “As an agency committed to supporting and promoting diverse South Australian screen practitioners and their stories, the SAFC has been proud to partner with SBS and NITV on this initiative providing a national platform to amplify under-represented Australian voices. It is especially exciting that the selected South Australian project comes from a First Nations led creative team of writer/director/producer sisters Pearl Berry and Lilla Berry, along with writer/producer Piri Eddy and director Johanis Lyons-Reid; we congratulate them on their success and look forward to seeing their finished film on NITV.”

Curious Australia is targeted at mid-career practitioners working on lower-budget, exciting and risk-taking projects. Launched with a call-out in 2021, it brings the sector together to support the further development of diverse creative talent.

Read the full announcement on the SBS website – click here.

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