Sunday at the movies

It was only after chatting with my neighbours and was halfway down the street that I discovered chocolate stains on my shirt, prompting a return home to change.

I was on my way to meet a friend who I haven’t seen for several months. I went to Lismore, and she went to Alice Springs. She’s been back for a couple of weeks, but this is the first time we’ve had a chance to see each other. 

Our catch-up plan was to see the movie, Araatika: Rise Up!, directed by a friend of ours, Larissa Behrendt, at the postponed Sydney Film Festival, and then have a late afternoon chat over a bottle of wine and nibbles.

“I’m a little peckish”, I said to my friend as we arrived at the cinema. That’s when I suggested grabbing a choc-top and soon realised they have a new wrapper for the choc-tops at the cinema on George Street, and presumably all other Event Cinemas too. The see-through wrapper has been replaced by a more “traditional” style of ice-cream wrapper. 

As I fumbled in the dark with the wrapper, the ice cream fell out, covering the top of my pants and the bottom of my shirt in chocolate-covered salty caramel ice cream. “I’ve discovered a new use for face-masks. You can use the inside of them to clean up chocolate from your pants”, I joked.

The film we saw is about the development of Australian rugby league’s “answer” to New Zealand’s “haka”.

First Nations filmmaker Larissa Behrendt (After the Apology) follows a group of NRL stars as they create a pre-game performance to meet the famous haka. For over a decade, NRL players including Dean Widders, Preston Campbell, Timana Tahu and George Rose have been leading the movement for a First Nations Australian equivalent to the haka. Widders faced discrimination throughout his career and for him the ceremony is a way of celebrating Indigenous Australia’s contribution to the game. In 2012, dancer and choreographer Sean Choolburra came on board to help. Working with NRL players, he came up with a series of movements that reflected cultural symbols. The goal was to perform the symbolic dance at the 2020 New Zealand-Australia Test but COVID-19 halted their plans. Behrendt’s rousing documentary, also featuring the Bangarra Dance Company, Stan Grant, Adam Goodes, Michael O’Loughlin and many more, traces the game’s troubled relationship to its Indigenous stars, to its previous failed attempts at a pre-game ceremony and to a triumphant performance on-stage at Sydney Festival.

In the on-stage introduction to the film, Larissa confessed she was “not really a sporty girl”. She is, however, deeply interested in the arts. But you don’t have to like rugby league to like the film, as it combines so many interesting stories.

Chatting with Larissa afterwards, my “critique” of the film rolled off my tongue. “I loved the relationship between Dean and his dad, I loved the piece where the players come literally nose to nose, and I loved the combination of footy and arts”, I told her. Throughout the film, there’s also the narrative of the growing pride in identity of many Aboriginal people.

As the film was co-funded by NITV, I’m sure it will eventually get a TV screening.

After a great afternoon catch-up, it was time to come home and wash THREE pieces of clothing!

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