Dialog Box

Arts | History | Human Rights | Indigenous | Social Justice
Firestarter - The Story of Bangarra
In 2019, Australia’s most iconic dance company celebrates its 30th anniversary. Tracking this
pivotal year, Fire Starter tells the story of Bangarra Dance Theatre through the eyes of their long standing and
charismatic artistic director, Stephen Page.

A combination of intimate observational material shot during the anniversary year,
candid interviews and a treasure trove of personal and company archive will reveal a story of
triumph against all the odds.

A stunning hybrid of factual and dramatic storytelling, the film will
convey key moments in the Bangarra story in evocative dance sequences, exclusively
choreographed and shot for the purpose of our narrative.

In the early 1990s, 26-year-old Stephen Page and his two brothers take on the company in its
infancy. Amidst a heady political era in Australia - the landmark Mabo decision, the Stolen
Generation revelations and the lead up to the Sydney Olympics - David, Russell and Stephen work
tirelessly to build the company from a little known Indigenous dance group to one the nation’s most
powerful cultural institutions. As the millennium takes hold the company gains international appeal,
and is fast becoming a national treasure.

But for Stephen huge professional success comes with great personal loss. Today, David and
Russell are no longer with us and Stephen must lead the company through its 30th anniversary on
his own. A new generation of dancers emerges, a sister company is formed overseas and
Bangarra has a bigger platform than ever. Will Stephen stay on? And if so, where to from here?

Fire Starter interweaves Stephen’s tumultuous personal biography with the modern Indigenous
history of Australia, all through a prism of a present day dance company in full flight. Through
Stephen and his dancers we explore the complexities of celebrating and keeping alive an ancient
culture in a modern world obsessed with material values and provide a rare personal insight into
Bangarra’s artistic activism.

Fire Starter is a national interest story of pride, of heartbreak, overcoming adversity and
empowerment, with dance as the potent cultural messenger.

How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?

It showcases the (performing) arts and what the arts are able to achieve as social messengers
It encourages young Indigenous Australians to find their voice by pursuing a career in the arts
It demonstrates to young Indigenous Australians the extraordinary effect of (re)connecting with country and culture
It instills pride in Australia's Indigenous history - pride in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians
It tells the story of one of Australia's leading custodians of Indigenous heritage and culture
It tells the stories of remote Indigenous communities, such as Yirrkala in the NT
It can educate international audiences about the extraordinary power of Australian Indigenous culture.
It can be used for many educational purposes, including by highlighting the above-mentioned benefits
The production team is a partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, each benefiting from each other's skills and transferring those skills to each other.
Aims & Objectives

What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?

Our main aim is to create a documentary film - a work of art in itself - that documents and celebrates the work of what is arguably Australia's chief custodian of Indigenous culture and heritage - Bangarra Dance Theatre.
Secondly, we wish to document - within that narrative - the extraordinary tale of the Page brothers, whose influence on Australian culture has been tremendous but perhaps still undervalued.
We want to create a work that can be used as an educational tool for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike, that will inspire them to pursue careers in the arts and/or in any event re-evaluate the power and relevance of Indigenous culture in Australia.
We want to instill a sense of pride in Australian Indigenous culture for all Australians.
The impact will be measured by:
* looking at how many cinema screens it reaches, and in turn, how many people buy tickets;
* how it is received at (international) film festivals (it already has a guaranteed spot at SFF 2020)
* the uptake of study-guides and downloading for educational purposes
* the number of viewers on the ABC broadcast and iView
* the number of screenings that we will be able to organize in regional, rural and remote communities
* the sharing of and interaction with ancillary content on social media, especially produced to engage younger audiences

What is your education and outreach strategy?

Part of the education and outreach strategy comes from maximizing the number of ways and platforms in which the audience can access the film.
At the moment, that roll out looks like this:

June 2020: worldwide premiere at the Sydney Film Festival - guaranteed slot
NAIDOC week 2020: premiere of the theatrical release in Dendy cinemas and others, in major cities and major regional centers, followed by an exclusive theatrical run of up to 3 months
November 2020: nationwide release on ABC Television during Aus music month, accompanied by an extensive social media campaign
As soon as holdbacks allow, the film will be made available via TVOD, SVOD and FVOD.
Icon will also engage with On Demand cinema distributor and exhibitors to ensure that the film is seen in regional and remote communities in Australia

The producers also plan to engage an impact producer, who in consultation with our distributors Icon and ABC Commercial, will seek to maximize the impact of the film as well as access to it, with a special focus on getting it into classrooms, nationwide.

Obviously, we will create a curriculum appropriate study guide.

We will also closely liaise with Bangarra's own community outreach officers, and endeavor to organize local screenings wherever Bangarra performs, as part of Bangarra's community visits.
Wayne Blair/Nel Minchin
Ivan O'Mahoney
Total budget
90 Minutes