A Cross to bear
A filmmaker explores national identity and nationalism
WARWICK Thornton explores Australia’s complex relationship with the Southern Cross in a new documentary for NITV’s film series You Are Here. Premiering tomorrow, the series – presented by Miranda Tapsell – lets Australians explore national identity through a shared indigenous experience.
We Don’t Need A Map sees Thornton, best known for his acclaimed drama Samson and Delilah, step out from behind the camera to narrate and conduct interviews.
“I hate films that have a really empowered, self-important director who says ‘You know nothing; I know everything,” he tells Weekend.
“But this is something important to me. What is happening with our country with nationalism is a worry for me. I knew I’d have to be in it (the film). I don’t pretend to be a book of knowledge. It’s important to go on a journey with an audience and with people who do know a lot.”
We Don’t Need A Map explores the history of the Southern Hemisphere’s most famous constellation, which has been claimed, appropriated and hotly contested for ownership by a radical range of Australian groups.
But for Aboriginal people the meaning of this heavenly body is deeply spiritual and, as Thornton discovered, just about completely unknown.
“There are traditional stories, but it’s not just talking heads and academics,” he says.
“I designed the film to have a lot of energy – a lot of punk music and rap to diversify it – and I used marionettes to tell a bit of history. It’s not some stagnant essay.”
Thornton, who infamously voiced his fears about the Southern Cross becoming a swastika in 2010, is unapologetic about his film’s “lefty’’ tone.
“One of the most important things for me is I didn’t want to give any racist person a single frame or precious time in this movie,” he says.
But he also readily admits the film forced him to address his own prejudices.
“Every time I’ve seen a bloke with a Southern Cross tattoo I was like ‘I don’t want to talk with them’. That’s my form of racism; that’s me creating a divide,” he says. “I learned a lot about myself.
“Despite all those fears I had about nationalism, after the film I was quite hopeful. I realised we’re smarter than that. We’re a bloody good country ... there’s hope.”
The You Are Here film series begins tomorrow at 8.30pm on NITV.
Filmmaker Warwick Thornton, right, in a scene from the documentary We Don’t Need A Map.