Prof speaks on Aboriginal film

Dressed in a speckled orange-and-red shirt with black lizards draping across, Donald Pollock, professor of communications, shared his research on Aboriginal filmmaking Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room.

A group of 50 students, faculty and administrators listened attentively at the research lecture put on by the Faculty Research Committee.

Pollock focused on Aboriginal filmmakers that have a unique gift of blending colorful and bold historic art with themes of their culture’s past.

The Aboriginal films typically focus on the cultural, land and home issues and conflicts that were caused by European settlers.

Pollock showed clips from Rachel Perkins’ “Blood Brothers;” “Lousy Little Sixpence,” the most rented film in Australia up to this day; Ivan Sen’s “Tears” and “Bush Mechanics” to depict the intrinsic style and history of Aboriginal films.

Pollock went to Australia on a sabbatical to gather research for a documentary on the indigenous people of Australia and aboriginal film and media.

“In think he’s probably one of the first to document that,” said Alfred Clark, associate vice president of academic affairs and professor of humanities.

Aboriginals, the most studied people on earth, are known as the “noble savage” whose remarkable talents in film are impacting today’s world of television.

“The most exciting films in Australia are of the Aboriginals,” Pollock said.

Pollock was first interested in the Aboriginals, Australia’s native people, during his first trip to Australia in 1987.

He was drawn to their art work and lifestyles.

Originally the Aboriginals told their history through songs.

Each tribe had an amazing tune accompanied by lyrics that conveyed the history about a particular tribe or area of land.

This continued from tribe to tribe.

Despite worldwide advances in technology, Aboriginals still consider reading a foreign invasion that could cause the Aboriginal culture to fade.

“Because it’s a preliterate culture, reading is not a high priority,” Pollock said.

The Aboriginal society is recognized as being the oldest existing society on earth, having been around for more than 40,000 years.

In the late 1700s European settlers seized most of their land and forced the Aboriginals to live in the outskirts of town, and attempted to breed out the Aboriginal civilization.

The Aboriginals were denied basic rights until the mid-1960s when the Australian government slowly started returning their freedoms in small increments.

“This is important because these become the themes of aboriginal movies,” Pollock said.

When resentments between white and aboriginals began to diminish, the government allowed the aboriginals to attend an Australia film, Television and radio school Television Radio School through an indigenous training program.

This brought the aboriginal film movement 10 years ago.

“It ended up training some of the top Australian filmmakers,” Pollock said.

The Aboriginals learned the craftsmanship of this trade and produced several stunning pieces, combining their culture with modern techniques.

This led to the prominence of Australian cinema in the 1970s.

The Central Australian Aborigines Media Association was created in 1980.

It was a media outlet that showcased Aboriginal work and the first indigenous television station in the world.

Initially “white” people operated CAAMA, but as time progressed the Aboriginals were able to participate in the production process through an internship program.

“They work on an intern basis,” Pollock said. “They don’t have formal training but kids come and hang out.”

Many Aboriginal films are funded by an “alphabet soup” of government agencies such as SBS that funds a number of Aboriginal projects.

A large number of dramatic short films has been produced, and three narrative feature films on the Aboriginals have been made.

“The Australian filmmaking industry knows that they can’t compete with the US genre so they try to do new things,” Pollock said.

“The Aboriginal filmmakers I think will continue to win awards and will begin to win awards internationally,” he said.

Students attending the lecture left with a new perspective on Australia.

“It broadened my view on the country,” said senior biology major Cesar Rodriguez. “I thought they were just tribal people without access to technology.”

Yelena Ovcharenko can be reached at

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