How It Was Made
Film production began without a script. There was no pre-defined outcome or story.
Director Sinem Saban had been living and working at Elcho Island one and off for the previous 8 years. After hearing the people’s ongoing concerns, she was inspired to turn a camera on and record their voices. In late 2007, she was joined by Damien Curtis, who had been been working with Indigenous people in South America and Africa for several years.
The filmmakers sat with Aboriginal people for extended periods of time, in various communities across the Northern Territory, recording what they wanted to say. They compiled over 200 hours of footage, filled with intimate accounts of people’s feelings and experiences.
What began as a reaction to the Northern Territory Intervention soon developed into a much larger canvas, drawn by the people themselves, and filled with their deepest concerns and aspirations for the future. Our Generation became their message-stick to wider Australia, their cry for freedom and reconciliation. Over its 3 years of production, the film matured into an expansive exploration of Indigenous issues, from 1788 until now, driven by Aboriginal people’s concerns and interests.
When the rough cut was completed in early 2010, the filmmakers returned to N.E Arnhem Land to screen the film in community centres for feedback and final direction. There was an overwhelming positive response, with people feeling proud that their concerns were being given such a platform. Many people who were not interviewed wanted to be included, a sure sign that the film was inspiring people to speak up. There was also constructive criticism surrounding cultural protocol, which the filmmakers took on board, paving the way for the final film which the Yolngu can truly call their own.
The film was launched at the Darwin Festival in August 2010. In October 2011, the film was updated and enhanced with James Bradley, the award-winning editor of First Australians. This new version includes the latest political developments, and was shortened from 73 minutes to 52 minutes in order to create a better fit for educational use and future TV broadcast.
How it was funded
Our Generation is an independent, people-powered project that was made without any broadcaster, government or corporate funding. This meant that the filmmakers could expose the issues without any censorship, and that the Indigenous voices in the film could be presented at their most direct and heartfelt, without compromise.
An initial grant by UK-based human rights charity the Roddick Foundation got the project going in 2007. From then on, as the project progressed, the filmmakers raised the production costs online, through public donations, through their personal funds, and through fundraising events. These events, organized by the filmmakers, would show the rough-cut of the film in progress, accompanied by live music by the likes of John Butler, Blue King Brown, Shellie Morris and Oka, and special guests including Jeff McMullen, Gary Foley and Les Malezer. These powerful events also built a strong support base for the film before it was completed, setting the foundations for the movement to follow.
A final donation from the Arnhem Land Progress Association in 2010 enabled the film to go to post production studio for finalisation. That the money came from an Indigenous organisation affirmed the growing Aboriginal support for the film’s message and intention.
“This is a very important film that everyone needs to see… It will change your life.” JOHN BUTLER
“Accessible, positive and mainstream in intent, Our Generation deserves to become as popular and influential as An Inconvenient Truth and Michael Moore’s Sicko.” THE MORNING STAR, UK
“Our Generation is a very fine piece of work. It’s truthful, eloquent and, above all, it explains very clearly to first-timers and the many who need reminding why the indigenous people of Australia are once again being defrauded of their human and political rights in a country calling itself a democracy.” JOHN PILGER, journalist, author and filmmaker
“The truth in this film is like a red hot poker driven into the conscience of a nation. Aboriginal voices, unheard or ignored, make it plain that they are ‘of their land’ and that they will not trade off their lawful rights. This film is a plea for reason. Are we listening? Will we act?” JEFF MCMULLEN, former ABC foreign correspondent and Four Corners presenter
“If ever Australia had an Inconvenient Truth, this is it. Our Generation is a highly emotional, powerful journey into territory that we have chosen too long to ignore… This is a film every Australian needs to see.” CATHY HENKEL, Director, The Burning Season