Short film tackles indigenous issues
A group of four young boys are under the beating Pilbara sun, walking through spinifex plains beneath the red rock hills.
Leading them is one of their elders, determined to reconnect four lost souls with their culture and country.
The boys had been at a party, “carrying on like silly buggers” as director Tyson Mowarin puts it, when their elder pulls them away to take out to country on a journey to learn their identity.
It is a story that hits close to home for many indigenous people trying hard to reconnect to their culture.
It is a story Mowarin has decided to tell through film.
The short film, titled Undiscovered Country, features acclaimed Gulf country actor Tom E. Lewis, who plays the role of the elder trying to save the boys from losing their identity.
Lewis has recently returned from London, where he starred as King Lear in a Creole adaptation of the Shakespeare play, renamed The Shadow King.
He said it was an honour to walk on Pilbara country and be part of this family.
“What a privilege to be invited out here with this family, to come to their country, dance in their stories, be part of something really special,” he said.
“I’m a spoilt man in the industry. I’ve learnt from our mob and I’ve been to the school of knocks and learnt from our family and people in the industry.”
Despite his success playing King Lear, Lewis has remained grounded and well connected to his own land.
“If we were bad when we were young we got boomerangs or got left on an island and then, you know, you learn quick,” he said.
“The film industry actually has a lot of history of our people working together in it and that’s why I love it.
“You and I have to look after the country because without it you can’t dance.”
For the local boys, working alongside Lewis is a chance to gain first-hand experience alongside an indigenous success story in the creative arts.
Lewis’ Shakespeare connection will continue in Undiscovered Country, in which his character carries a copy of Hamlet that he uses to relate to the young boys on their journey.
Mowarin said Hamlet was a device used to put the message across about identity and connection to country.
He said he knew he wanted to work with Lewis from the beginning of the film.
“I’ve always liked Tom, I grew up watching his films, like Naked Country,” he said.
“At the start of this year ScreenWest told me I was chosen in this Elevate 70 film initiative to make my short film.
“Once I knew I was making it, I got hold of Tom. I always wanted him for the role right from the start.”
Mowarin is one of a host of prominent next-generation indigenous voices making themselves heard across the Pilbara.
Weerianna Street Media is not only a success for indigenous people, it is a success for the Pilbara.
“Each film project I’m trying to make a higher production value, a bit more reach and now I’m working with Tom, he is a world-class actor,” Mowarin said.
“Anyone can succeed anywhere they want to. We’re a long way from a major city, but that doesn’t stop us from making top-quality films and other projects.”
Undiscovered Country will be released next year with plans to air it at film festivals and on the small screen.
Tom E. Lewis, front, with Maverick and Xavier Eaton, 15, Nelson Coppin, 15, and Sidney Eaton, 12.
Cavel Schipp shoots a scene near Pyramid Station.