Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra to air on ABC

[by Katherine Stevenson]


Image: Daniel Boud

Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra will be aired 8.30pm Tuesday 6th July on ABC and ABC iview.


Bangarra Dance  Theatre,  which  is  celebrating  its  30th  anniversary,  is  Australia’s  only  Indigenous  major performing arts company. Its development from a small dance group in Glebe, Sydney, in the late  80s  to  a  company  of  international  renown,  was  and  is  driven  in  large  part  by  its  Artistic  director Stephen Page and his brothers, composer David Page and lead dancer Russell Page. 


Firestarter  takes  Bangarra’s  anniversary  year  as  its  launch  pad  but  takes  us  right  back  to  the  world in which the Page brothers grew up as youngsters – Queensland  in  the  70s  and  80s,  a  world  in  which  racism  and  suppression  of  Aboriginal  identity  was  still  rife,  with  “one  law  for  whites  and  another  for  blacks.”    ‘It  was  tough,’  says  Stephen.  ‘I  was  born  three  years  before  the  referendum  that constitutionalised Aboriginal people being respected as humans.’  


Never before seen home video, shot by David as a child, and rare archive takes us through the boys’ younger  years,  interweaving  their  story  with  the  late  80s/early  90s  rise  of  black  ‘artivism’  and  the  start of Bangarra. 


As   the   film   tracks   the   rise   of   Bangarra,   culminating   in   its   era   defining   work   Ochres   and   a   spectacularly  triumphant  contribution  to  the  2000  Sydney  Olympics  opening  ceremony,  we  start  to  realise  what  commentator  Hetti  Perkins  means  at  the  start  of  the  film  when  saying:  ‘once  you  pick up the torch, you never get to put it down. And that sort of thing comes at a cost.’ The ghosts of the past haunt the Page family.


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