Redfern Now: Six part TV series telling contemporary Aboriginal stories starts 1 November

Redfern Now is an Australian television drama series set to screen on ABC1.

Pictures above from the world premiere in Redfern

The six-part series tells the stories of six inner-city households in one street, whose lives are changed by a seemingly insignificant incident.

It tells powerful contemporary stories about Aboriginal Australians in the Sydney suburb of Redfern.

The series was produced by Blackfella Films. It was developed by UK screenwriter Jimmy McGovern with local indigenous writers. The project also has indigenous directors, producers and actors. It is directed by Rachel Perkins, Catriona McKenzie, Wayne Blair and Leah Purcell.

From The Melbourne Age

WHEN the television industry comes to the Block in Redfern, it is usually  a  news crew chasing the latest misfortune.

But on Wednesday night, under a giant inflatable screen, hundreds of Redfern   people  gathered on picnic rugs at the corner of Eveleigh and Caroline streets,   scene of the 2004 Redfern riots, to watch the premiere of Redfern Now,  the first television drama series  written, directed and produced by indigenous  Australians.

Its six one-hour episodes were shot in and around Redfern, and  feature  Australia’s most accomplished indigenous actors, including Deborah Mailman, Leah  Purcell, Miranda Tapsell and Jimi Bani.

As the sun set over Redfern Community Centre, Australian Idol star  Casey Donovan warmed-up the  cheering crowd. ”You look here tonight, you talk  about reconciliation, this is reconciliation,” said Mick Mundine, chief  executive of the Aboriginal Housing Company,  speaking  from a makeshift  stage.

”What you see here tonight is the future of Redfern.”

Glenn Shea, 47, who in the series plays a community centre worker, Charlie,  shook his head and smiled as he surveyed the Block.  ”It’s really a historical  moment,” he said.

The idea for Redfern Now sprung from a determination to portray  contemporary indigenous life in urban areas, said the head of the indigenous  department at the ABC, Sally Riley.

Ms Riley aims to push indigenous films and programs into edgier, more modern  territories.

She is working on two indigenous comedies  to launch on the ABC next year,  one a sketch comedy called Don’t be afraid of the darkies.

Wednesday night’s screening was of the  second episode, Joyride, which  tells  of a feisty Eveleigh Street grandmother who,  hit by a car, comes under  the care of her granddaughter.

An unflinching and often darkly comic drama, Redfern Now was produced  by Blackfella Films with ABC TV, Screen Australia and Screen NSW.

 And from the Sydney Morning Herald

FOR the people behind Redfern Now, the success of the six-part ABC  drama series won’t be measured in rating numbers so much as in the simple fact  that it got into prime time at all – and in the fact it has unearthed a new  generation of indigenous storytellers along the way.

The series stars some of Aboriginal Australia’s best-known actors – Leah  Purcell, Deborah Mailman and her Sapphires co-stars Shari Sebbens and  Miranda Tapsell – and harnesses serious directorial clout, with Wayne Blair  (The Sapphires) and Rachel Perkins (Bran Nue Dae) among those  calling the shots.

“For the most part, indigenous faces and stories and creative talent has not  been represented on our TV screens, particularly in prime time,” says Kim  Dalton, the ABC’s director of television and one of the driving forces behind  the series.

Brand new adventure … Leah Purcell stars in the ABC series about urban  indigenous people. Photo: Marco Del Grande

“This is new territory for us,” says Sally Riley, the head of ABC TV’s  indigenous department. “It’s hard to know what to expect in terms of  viewers.”

Redfern  Now is the first product of the unit Dalton established in May  2010 with Riley as its head and a $5 million-a-year budget. And it’s the first  test of a change of direction in how indigenous stories are told on the national  broadcaster.

Previously, the ABC’s indigenous unit (a lesser beast than Riley’s  “department”) was producing 42 episodes of the 30-minute Sunday afternoon  magazine program Message Stick and “three or four” documentaries a  year. “It was good work, but it was peripheral,” says Dalton. “It sat on the  edges, outside the mainstream.”

Dalton hired Riley with a clear brief to get indigenous material out of the  ghetto. The docos remain but Message Stick is gone as her department  focuses on drama and comedy.

Redfern Now will be followed next year by another drama series, The Gods of Wheat Street. Also in the works is a narrative comedy  series set in an Alice Springs radio station and a sketch comedy series – “the  first since Basically Black in 1974,” says Riley – both for ABC2.

While Redfern Now drops into the Thursday-night slot vacated by the  popular Rake, Dalton says he isn’t anticipating it matching its  800,000-plus audience. “I wouldn’t expect it’s going to be our top-rating show  of the year,” he says.

Not that he’s trying to scare people off. “These are aspects of Australian  life and landscape and culture that we haven’t been taken into before, and  that’s exciting,” he says.

When the call went out in September 2010 for ideas from indigenous writers  for what would eventually become Redfern Now, the emphasis was on the  strength of the idea rather than the experience of the writer. That was because  helping shape what they had to say was Jimmy McGovern, the extremely experienced  – though not very indigenous – creator of the English dramas Cracker  and The Street.

McGovern, who is credited as “story producer” on the show, worked intensively  with the writers over several months helping to shape their stories. “It was  some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done,” he says. “The end product is  very important, but the process is equally so. If people don’t come out of this  having learnt a great deal then we’ve failed.”

Still there were moments, Riley admits, when the gap between McGovern’s  experiences and those of his Aboriginal charges seemed enormous. “But he never  shied away from the emotional guts of it; he gets people who are on the fringe,  who are struggling.”

“I was born and brought up in a big family, very poor, and it stays with  you,” adds

McGovern. Though admittedly very comfortable these days, the 63-year-old  Scouser says, “You always have a soft spot for the underdog, you take the rebel  to heart”.

Kim Dalton makes no apologies for attempting to take the rebel into the  mainstream. “Some things happen organically and extremely slowly, but I think  it’s absolutely the role of publicly funded institutions like the ABC to bite  the bullet and do something to hurry the process along,” he says.

Not that Redfern Now is simply about good intentions, he adds. “You  only commit this level of resources and effort and energy,” he says, “because  you’ve got something to say”.

Redfern Now is on ABC1 from Thursday at 8.30pm

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