The 2018 Melbourne international film festival took place recently, and the experience of attending one of the screening films leaves me some special impression. It is a documentary called ‘Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley’, telling that how the development of mining and pastoral from the government is affecting the environment and the lives of Aborigines and their communities in Kimberley.
Different from the normal film screening in cinema, the process of watching this documentary may bring the audience more ‘liveness’. The production team (the producer, the director, and the main character) had a brief introduction of the documentary in advance, and after showing it they did a Q&A with the audience. The documentary itself reveals some issues like the overdevelopment of mining and other natural resources forced the aborigines to leave their community; people there living rely on the agriculture and fishing and passing on from generation to generation are facing the extremely urgent dilemma; drugs and alcohol are affecting the young people in the community but the government barely takes action to deal with it; some cultural traditions are gradually disappearing since it becomes hard to inherit and so forth.
Albert Wiggan, as the indigenous and environmental activist, is the main character narrating throughout the whole documentary, in the Q&A section, he repeated the theme to the audience. What he emphasized is that, the things happening in the film are not storytelling, they are the current situation, and they are not the things going to happen, they are taking place right now. To make a clearer explanation, he said that they are not rejecting the industrialization process, but feeling concerned about their home, culture, and tradition are being eroded by the excessive industrialization. Finally, Albert appealed that people who have families or friends in Kimberley should keep in touch with them or come to their home from time to time so that people can be closer to aborigines lives and care more about the issues.
Although the section of Q&A between the hostess and the production team was not lasting long, it was an opportunity for them to convey their idea further and deeper to the audience face to face. For example, since the documentary was filmed in a former specific period, the director now can update and add more information about the current situation and the progress they made. The ‘liveness’ the audience feeling in this way can also bring them the sense substitution in the documentary. According to Rhyne (2009), the liveness can be witnessed but cannot be reproduced. All the content that the director and the producer talked about and the audiences’ experience of witnessing Albert appeared from the screening to the reality will not be accessible somewhere else.
Documentary Australia Foundation (DAF), 2018, Undermined: Tales from The Kimberley, viewed 15 August 2018, http://www.documentaryaustralia.com.au/films/4065/kimberley-project/people
Rhyne, R. ed., 2009. The Festival Circuit. St Andrews Film Studies.