Cleverman. The Sapphires. Rabbit Proof Fence. Bran Nue Dae. Ten Canoes. Samson and Delilah. They changed the film industry, as well as Australia, with the blunt truth of the treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.
In today's society, we consume and relate to television. The shows we watch somehow reflect our journey or the experiences we’ve had. When I saw the first episode of Cleverman I didn’t know what to expect. What it delivered gave me a reality check regarding the treatment of my people. It depicted blackfullas living in places reminiscent of mission camps, segregated from the rest of the community and looked down upon because of the colour of their skin or the hair on their backs. If you’re a blackfulla, you know what it is like to walk around and constantly be monitored by whitefullas. Cleverman put this kind of experience on screen.
The show’s creator, Ryan Griffen, is a hero in his own right, creating something that has impacted so many people. It’s not just the show itself, but also the message that the show is sending.
Cleverman is a story of black resilience. In the show, like reality, no matter what the man throws at black people, we always rise.
I believe Cleverman and other movies and television shows have sparked a feeling of empowerment. Black Australia has so much raw talent and so many untold stories and the wider community should hear them from us. We are the owners of our past and present and should determine what our future will look like and not what the white man believes it should look like.
To base a show solely on the struggle of black people in this way pushed the boundaries of television and is what makes the show important. Since the release of the show it has gotten so much buzz as it’s the first show of its kind in the science fiction realm. A lot of the critical discussion about the show has referred to the titular character as a “modern-day superhero.” But to frame Cleverman in this way simplifies his character, and indeed our stories. The show itself says, "the Cleverman has been protecting his people for years." Who can say really how long the Cleverman has been amongst us? While show makes him modern, the character himself may predate invasion. That’s how far back our stories go. It’s about time that the rest of the world heard them. The television industry, let’s be honest, is white and quite racist. Whenever a black person comes out on top the industry will claim it was their idea, and the moment a black person stand up and calls them on their shit, they get blacklisted. Unfortunately, this is what the industry is. I take my hat off to every single blackfulla in the industry taking on roles and shining a light on our past and present. The industry will only see black people as ancient and just believe we aren't talented enough to make it. But with the way Cleverman and other great shows, like Blackish and Grownish just to name a few, we are changing that negative stereotype of that yes we have been for thousands of years but we still here.
We are the original storytellers and Cleverman has taken an innovative way of telling the story of First Nations people in Australia. This show has made a huge impact on the community, not only for blackfullas but broader society. The show has given more insight on our people and giving the opportunity to tell our stories. That’s what I love about what Cleverman creator Ryan Griffen has done with this show: it has given room to start conversations about why the show was created and reflects the reality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
There was a Cleverman panel and I asked a question about Indigenous people breaking into the business: how do you stay grounded and connected to your culture and community, and work in the business? The answers I was given gave me an idea about my art, and how to stay connected to my mob and community. Working in the entertainment business isn't easy for anyone, but if you are strong minded and grounded you can make it.
This show has the potential to be even bigger than it already is. It has been shown in film festivals all across the world including Canada and England. I would love for the show to be adapted into a feature-length film and from that it starts our very own Marvel/DC franchise. The reach that this show has already had and could possibly have is inspiring. Seeing projects created by blackfullas and featuring blackfullas reaching international audiences motivates me, and likely many other blackfullas every day, to keep moving forward with my passions.
I’m always thinking, what is the next big thing we could do that’s never been done before? There is so much potential for the future of black storytelling to take over the entertainment industry whether film, television, music or gaming. The opportunities are endless and television like Cleverman shows us anything is possible. Cleverman also reminds us of the power that black people have as this country’s original storytellers and that we have the power to tell our stories. We are the keepers and only we decide how it is told.
Kimberly Lovegrove is a 26 year old Ngarrindjeri woman from South Australia. She currently lives in Melbourne and lives to make people laugh. Kimberly stand up comedian and public relations consultant/graduate. She has a Bachelor in Communication (Public Relations) from RMIT University.