/News 30.05.24

Trio of South Australian First Nations creatives take their work to Marché du Film at Cannes

South Australia’s screen industry was in the international spotlight at Cannes this year, with Adelaide Film Festival (AFF) leading a delegation of 10 South Australian filmmakers to the internationally renowned market, including First Nations creatives Travis Akbar, Josh Trevorrow and Nara Wilson.

The filmmakers participated in a suite of activities incorporating a curated roundtable program, networking activities and a screening showcase, all designed to help connect them to the global market.

The South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) supported the attendance of two First Nations participants as part of the agency’s First Nations Screen Strategy commitment to supporting and promoting First Nations screen creatives.

Travis Akbar

Writer and director Travis Akbar is a Wongutha man based on Peramangk country in the Adelaide Hills.

Filmmaking started out as a hobby for Travis, but an opportunity to write film reviews in 2017 gave him his first break into the industry. With mentoring from Hollywood-credited writer Steph Lady (Frankenstein, Golden State), he moved into screenwriting and since then has been selected for prestigious screen industry initiatives including the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) State and National Talent Camps, the Australians in Film UNTAPPED program, and the SAFC, AFF and Screen Australia Film Lab: New Voices program. In 2022 he was awarded the Documentary Australia Centralised Indigenous Fellowship, and in 2024 attended the Screen Forever conference as part of Netflix and Screen Producers Australia’s Broad Horizons initiative.

His credits include several documentaries and award-winning short film Tambo, made as part of the SAFC’s First Nations Short Film Initiative, which premiered at the inaugural SXSW Sydney and screened at AFF 2023.

Travis describes the South Australian screen industry as a “supportive sector for emerging creatives.”

“I love that I am coming up at the same time as a number of other First Nations creatives that I am able to work with and grow with,” he said.

Cannes is Travis’s first time overseas – he obtained a passport just for the trip – and he says it was an “amazing privilege” to be part of a delegation with filmmakers he has such respect for, particularly Nara and Josh. He set off for the Marché with aims to not only grow his network but seek market attachments through international sales agents and distributors for some of his projects.

His current slate includes two feature films, one with some “deadly stars” already attached and one called Corrugated that he is writing now.  

Travis calls Danny and Michael Philippou’s horror smash hit Talk To Me his favourite South Australian film of recent years, saying: “The hype was real. I was very happy with it.”

Josh Trevorrow

Producer, director and documentary filmmaker Josh Trevorrow is a proud Ngarrindjeri man who says his “mandate is to champion First Nations talent”.

Josh got his start in screen in 2019 through the SAFC and Screen Territory’s Centralised program, an initiative supporting First Nations filmmakers and screen creatives in South Australia and the Northern Territory, later going on to work as an attachment in the electrics department on 2021 blockbuster Mortal Kombat.

Josh was awarded the 2021 Documentary Australia Centralised Indigenous Fellowship, developing his documentary Kondoli, which he produced and co-directed along with documentary Keep Yarning Strong. He was also shortlisted for the 2022 SAFC, AFF and Screen Australia Film Lab: New Voices program and in 2023 his project Blak Coffee was selected for the Screen Australia SBS Digital Originals development initiative. Josh has also worked as a short film programmer, including for the Art Gallery of South Australia and for Country Arts South Australia’s Nunga Screen.

Josh now helms South Australian production company Untold Productions, and is currently working on “a slate of various projects across both scripted and unscripted formats in both short and long form, feature and episodic formats.”

Josh says his favourite thing about working in the South Australian screen industry is “the opportunity to elevate First Nations voices and share our uniquely South Australian stories.” He has a particular passion for authenticity: “I admire any filmmaker who stays true to their vision through authenticity and being genuine,” he says.

Josh says his main aim in Cannes is to “strengthen my networks”.

“This trip is an incredible opportunity and thank you to AFF and the SAFC for their support, I can’t wait to get on the ground in Cannes and see what it is all about and just immerse myself in the experience,” he said.

Nara Wilson

Producer Nara Wilson is a proud Wirangu, Kokatha and Larrakia woman who lives and works on Peramangk country in Mount Barker, South Australia.

She first discovered her passion for the screen industry in high school, when she completed work experience with First Nations-run independent TV station IMPARJA. She went on to study screen at Flinders University and later worked for the SAFC, playing a key role in developing and delivering the agency’s First Nations Screen Strategy.

In July 2023 Nara returned to industry, and is now Company Director of BiRiny, producing First Nations animation and documentary stories for the screen. Her current slate includes feature documentary Kumerangk, which is being produced by Country Arts South Australia, about the controversial Hindmarsh Island Bridge development near Goolwa, South Australia, a site of cultural significance for Ngarrindjeri people. She is also Associate Producer at South Australian animation studio Vishus Productions.

Nara appreciates the community-minded nature of the South Australian screen industry, saying: “Everyone is generally willing to help each other out which is unique and awesome. It’s less of a competitive feel, but rather a supportive and encouraging state.”

She credits other First Nations female producers like Pauline Clague (Primal, Nia’s Melancholy), Lee-Ann Buckskin (The Leftovers, Storm Boy), Karla Grant (Living Black) and Freda Glynn for paving the way for the next generation.

Being selected to participate in AFF’s Cannes delegation is a “dream come true” for Nara.

“I feel very fortunate to have been chosen in this inaugural group. It’s so important coming from a small town like Adelaide to create and maintain international relationships to finance any film project,” she said. When asked about her favourite South Australian made film or series, Nara names Adult Swim animated comedy series YOLO Crystal Fantasy, which features work by SA creative studio Monkeystack. She also pays homage to 1975 documentary Sister If Only You Knew, which examines the pressures of city life on First Nations women transitioning from life in missions to the city.