First-Ever Australian First Nations Film Festival in Japan to Showcase Indigenous Voices; Physical Screening in Shibuya, Online Streaming for Free in Japan

Courtesy of the Australian Embassy Tokyo
A scene from “The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson”

A film festival celebrating the works of Indigenous Australian directors will be held in Japan for the first time on Saturday. A physical screening will take place at a theater in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, while viewers in Japan can also watch the films online free of charge.

The Australian First Nations Film Festival 2024, organized by the Australian Embassy Tokyo, will showcase five films premiering in Japan, all exclusively directed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who are also known as Australia’s First Nations peoples.

Indigenous people, who have lived in Australia for over 60,000 years and constitute nearly 4% of the country’s population today, were heavily affected by European colonization from 1788. This included widespread epidemics, land seizures, and the forced removal of children from their families from the 1910s to the 1970s under a government policy aimed at assimilating the children into white society.

According to Prof. Keiji Sawada, an expert in Australian film studies at Waseda University, Indigenous people were perceived as incapable of producing or acting in films until the mid-20th century due to strong prejudice against them. However, this notion changed in the 1960s and 70s, as TVs became popular in homes and Indigenous people fought for civil rights and began making their own films as a new form of expression based on their tradition of storytelling.

“Aboriginal art is well known in Japan, but very few films directed by Indigenous people have been released in theaters here. We’d like more people in Japan to know about a new form of expression by these people,” an official at the embassy said.

The festival’s lineup features a diverse range of stories. The documentary “Finke: There and Back” highlights the Finke Desert Race, which is more than just a race for the riders who take part in it. “The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson” delves into themes of racism and misogyny in remote Australia in 1893. Additionally, three short films offer unique perspectives: from an Aboriginal community radio station to a modern interpretation of the Indigenous tradition of arranged marriage, to a young white police officer’s first encounter with an Aboriginal community.

The festival will also feature a panel discussion with director Leah Purcell and producer Bain Stewart of “The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson,” as well as an introductory talk by Sawada on “The Magic of Australian First Nation Films.”

The physical screening will take place at Eurospace in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward from 1:30 p.m. with two different programs on offer costing ¥500 each. Free online screening will be available at the same time as the physical event. For more information, visit the Australian Embassy Tokyo website: