The screening will take place at Honiara’s Taloa Cinema, Rove seafront, West Honiara. This will be followed by a Q&A with Solomon Islander actors Jeremy Bobby and Regina Lepping, a statement from the organisers said.
Shot in Mackay, Queensland in 2015, the award-winning short film is the culmination of a long personal journey for Australian Solomon Islander filmmaker Amie Batalibasi.
From 1863 - 1904 it is estimated that around 60,000 South Sea Islanders were ‘blackbirded’ (often coerced through trickery and /or kidnapping) to labour in Queensland and NSW’s sugar cane and cotton plantations.
Three of the filmmaker’s own ancestors were blackbirded from the Solomon Islands during the late 1800s, providing inspiration for the film.
The film follows the story of Solomon Islander siblings, Rosa & Kiko, who were kidnapped from their island home to work on a sugar cane plantation in Queensland, Australia in the late 1800s.
As Kiko journeys into manhood amidst oppression and severe loss of culture and identity, he must find his will to survive.
The process saw a team of emerging filmmakers, professionals and community members join forces on location in Mackay, Queensland to shoot the film in July 2015.
Ms Batalibasi has been involved in many community film and media projects including ‘Pacific Stories’, ‘Wantok Stori‘, ‘ASSI Stories’ and the ‘Young Media Makers Project’ and she has been working in documentary film for the last eight years.
“I really feel that there is a lack of representation of women directors and black histories on screen in Australia. I’m glad that the film might be able to provoke thought and discussion around this under-acknowledged history. It took a village of people to make this film and I couldn’t have done it without the wonderful support of the Mackay community and our amazing cast and crew,” Ms Batalibasi said.
The film was shot entirely on location in Mackay, Queensland – in a rainforest, the beach and a local sugar cane farm. First-time actors played the main roles and local Mackay Australian South Sea Islander residents (descendants of those originally blackbirded), played extras in the film.
Non-professional actor Jeremy Bobby, was born in the Solomon Islands but grew up in Queensland and played the role of Kiko: “The reason I wanted to be a part of this story is because it was a part of my country, Solomon Island’s history. My ancestor’s story that honestly growing up here in Australia, I’ve never been made aware of, nor do I think my peers know about it. During the filming of ‘Blackbird’, I think the most challenging part for me was trying to reach the emotional side of the role I was playing.
“Not having much experience in acting, I really had to sort of put myself in the characters shoes and just try to imagine how it would feel being a young, adventurous boy growing up in an oppressive environment.”
Young aspiring filmmaker, Regina Lepping, travelled from the Solomon Islands to play the role of Rosa: “Being a part of this project is educational and historical to me. I have ancestors who have worked in sugar cane plantations too so it is also quite personal to me.
“This project has helped me also as a young film maker in Solomon Islands to think serious and document the events in country’s history that are not preserved that are important to us. I am so proud to be part of the Blackbird team and I know this journey is just the beginning of shining a light in our dark past.”
The film has been screened at a number of national and international film festivals including, Maoriland Film Festival in New Zealand, imagineNATIVE Film Festival in Canada, Skábmagovat Film Festival, in Finland, WINDA Film Festival in Sydney, taking home significant awards such as Best Drama Film (Sydney Indie Film Festival), People's Choice Award for Best Short (Maoriland Film Festival), 'Best of the Fest Award' (Pasifika Film Festival, Sydney & Brisbane).
Indigenous Producer, John Harvey of Brown Cab Productions who produced the feature film ‘Spear’ is an Associate Producer of ‘Blackbird’.
Ms Batalibasi is currently developing the short film into a feature film through the Sundance Institute’s Merata Mita Fellowship through the Native and Indigenous Feature Film Program.
The short film was primarily funded by over 100 Pozilbe crowdfunding pledgers and a grant through the Queensland Regional Arts Development Fund. There has been overwhelming support of the film online with the Facebook Page and a recent screening in Australia on NITV (National Indigenous Television Network).
There will be two screenings at Taloa Cinema on the 26th October, one at 6:30pm and one at 7:30pm. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Taloa Cinema (seafront at Rove, next to Gaoming building).
A DVD is not yet available but if you like the Facebook page you can stay up to date with DVD announcements: www.facebook.com/blackbirdfilmproject. You can watch a preview and find more information about the film here: www.amiebatalibasi.com