Film students work to keep the past alive

Brewarrina Central School students are collaborating with professional filmmakers to keep their Elders’ stories alive, as Kerrie O’Connor reports.

Students and film crew with an Aboriginal Elder on a basketball court. Students and film crew with an Aboriginal Elder on a basketball court.
Image: Auntie Chrissy Gordon with students at Brewarrina Central School and members of the Yesterday Stories film crew.

Good listeners make great filmmakers, as students at Brewarrina Central School have learned.

Listening to the frank stories of their Elders was an emotional first step for film students, as they worked with the Yesterday Stories film crew and the Brewarrina Aboriginal Cultural Museum.

The project is part of The Children and Young People Wellbeing recovery initiative, funded through the NSW Office for Regional Youth.

Proud HSIE (Human Society and its Environment) teacher Nathan McGuire said the project had exceeded expectations.

“It was a proper film set-up,” he said.

“Professionals gave hands-on instruction with big, expensive, heavy-duty cameras, audio, lighting and advanced editing tools.

“This was equipment students would not otherwise have had the opportunity to use.”

Students learned and practised structured interviewing skills, before the vital work of eliciting Elders’ stories.

“They were excited to speak to the Elders about their past,” Mr McGuire said.

One moving interview with Auntie Chrissy Gordon revealed “a long and emotional life”.

Mr McGuire said it was a chance for students to build on classroom lessons, via the personal experience of people they had known their whole lives.

“Family members conducted the interview and pushed themselves outside their comfort zone,” Mr McGuire said.

“Our kids are really good at listening.”

“They listened to her experience of living on the mission, of the Stolen Generation, in a way that was non-academic.

“It was a frank and emotional conversation. The kids felt comfortable asking questions.”

“To be behind a camera, asking your family member to be emotional and vulnerable for you and with you … I was proud.

“My kids went outside their comfort zone, to have frank conversations.”

A survey of the students completed after filming wrapped revealed using a camera was the best new skill learned, while asking relevant questions and conducting an interview were also highly rated.

An Aboriginal Elder to a student holding a camera. An Aboriginal Elder to a student holding a camera.
Image: Auntie Chrissy Gordon sharing her story.
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