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.
“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