Note to reader: These are a compilation of notes that I wrote on my phone whilst I attended the Screen Forever Conference on Naarm recently. It is a response to my experiences and Cleverman, which is a result of several creatives and artist who have been a huge inspiration to me as a screenwriter. I hope that there is something you can take away from my experience of this conference and what it meant to me in the context of Cleverman.
Text received: If you get cash to come to Paris. Let’s go to Greece and to Lindsay’s club.
The way blakfullas consume Cleverman is important. The way non-Indigenous people consume it, doesn’t really matter, I don’t care and neither should you.
The industry has self-championed itself on change with an influx of on-screen diversity making its way to our living rooms. Distributors and production companies are learning to throw money behind stories that only benefit a wider audience - that’s the hidden rubric.
If it’s unrepresented they’ll support it with that condition that it’s for everybody and it will pay off. It’s nothing but windfall from here, if it gains global attention it only validates that sentiment. But the issue is that these successes and can be at times deeply incompatible with how Blackfullas storytell.
Saw a guy at the Crown getting a dry wristie. Melbourne’s actually chat.
Cleverman has received accolades, awards, and several nominations globally. But it’s a story that would have been championed by our communities regardless of its presentation. I mean to be quite honest with you, I would’ve loved it in the same way my uncle would tell me his stories whilst on yandi in our decrepit housing commission. Cleverman is Blak television done right and well, the bar has been yet again raised. Yet I’m suspicious of what this really means for Blak fringe-creatives or Indigenous storytelling as a whole.
We could only assume this is hundreds of years of resistance and survival of an ongoing brutal colonial regime. But this could also be the many ways Indigenous creatives are forced to shapeshift and mould their stories for wider audiences and the mannerisms of screen modes, as many of us do to put food on the table.
I’m starting to feel homesick.
In a sense what I’m trying to understand is that where is the line in assimilation, I truly believe that if it can be commodified it’s just as prone to be counterfeited.
A blak tidda says: “Australia’s obsession with our stories and not our people is dangerous. Mythicalise us on our terms, but recognise us as people first” “Because I feel like they’ll take it away just as fast as they gave it up”
I went to Fem&ist Films and watched Karrabing Film Collectives shorts. 10/10
The fact that Blakfullas in this country are one of the highest incarcerated groups in the world. Only a couple months ago Australia hallmarked the fact that all the children in detention in the Northern Territory were Indigenous. There’s a real issue. People only want to see the binary they have imposed on us, Flora/Fauna than a Caste System and now Dysfunction or Excellence. Our prisons should never serve as a backdrop to an awarding winning Netflix series, and even more our protagonist shouldn’t need to defeat the odds and become our next Prime Minister in an awarding winning Stan series - they should be abolished, and should have never been a source of inspiration to begin with. The screen world isn’t immune to the world around it, but it also isn’t that reflective - the screen industry shouldn’t be embracing stories of trauma it should be actively stopping it. Because most of the time it’s white people who clear the funding and set our budgets and it’s us who do the groundwork.
Don’t get me wrong we deserve to see ourselves reflected on screen, and for those of us who work passionately in this industry we deserve to tell the stories we need to tell. But for a lot of us it’s not validation we’re looking for, it’s unconditional control and agency over our creative projects and our narratives that realistically isn’t the reality of this country we live in - where racism towards our community is embedded and we’ve been coded in such a way that as creatives, the only thing we are desperately clinging on to is the idea that we will be able to pave our own identities and have meaningful collaborative practices with other people in our communities. And this is hard.
It’s all been said before.
Text received: During the climax of the movie there is some pretty nasty dialogue that erases Aboriginal resistance. If you do watch it lmk what you think.
Text received: Drinks @ mine, we’re all going to 77.
Cleverman is absolute proof that Blak people on these countries are way too talented. All I really need to write is: fund us, and hand over the keys. We know what we’re doing.
Enoch Mailangi is an Aboriginal and Tongan text-based artist and TV writer based on Gadigal Land. Follow them on Instagram @e.noc.h.