In 2019, Australia’s most iconic dance company celebrates its 30th anniversary. Tracking this pivotal year, Fire Starter tells the story of Bangarra Dance Theatre through the eyes of their long standing and artistic director, Stephen Page. A combination of intimate observational material, candid interviews and a treasure trove of personal and company archive will reveal a story of triumph against all the odds. In the early 1990s, 26-year-old Stephen Page and his two brothers take on the company in its infancy. David, Russell and Stephen work tirelessly to build the company from a little known Indigenous dance group to one the nation’s most powerful cultural institutions. As the millennium takes hold the company gains international appeal, and is fast becoming a national treasure. The question is: at what cost? Stephen tragically loses both his brothers, and as the company's 4th decade is around the corner and he must find a way to lead Bangarra on his own.
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
The film tackles modern day Indigenous issues such as dispossession, loss of cultural identity, and suicide and examines how and whether art can be 'the best medicine.'
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
We want the film to showcase the (performing) arts and what they can achieve as social messengers; we want to encourage young Indigenous Australians to find their voice by pursuing a career in the arts ; nationally, we want to instil pride in our Indigenous history and internationally we seek to educate audiences about the power and importance of Indigenous culture.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
Our main aim is to create a documentary film - a work of art in itself - that documents and celebrates the work of what is arguably Australia's chief custodian of Indigenous culture and heritage - Bangarra Dance Theatre. Secondly, we wish to document - within that narrative - the extraordinary tale of the Page brothers, whose influence on Australian culture has been tremendous but perhaps still undervalued. We want to create a work that can be used as an educational tool for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike, that will inspire them to pursue careers in the arts and/or in any event re-evaluate the power and relevance of Indigenous culture in Australia. We want to instil a sense of pride in Australian Indigenous culture for all Australians.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
Our key partnership is with Bangarra Dance Theatre, who through workshops and meetings have been closely involved in the development of the project.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
Older viewers: sponsor and improve funding to the (Indigenous) arts;
Younger (Indigenous) viewers: consider careers in the performing arts as viable ways to earn a living and have a voice.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
measure how many cinema screens it reaches, and in turn, how many people buy tickets; measure how it is received at (international) film festivals; track the uptake of study-guides and downloading for educational purposes ; track the number of viewers on the ABC broadcast and iView; track the number of screenings that we will be able to organise in regional, rural and remote communities; analyse the sharing of and interaction with ancillary content on social media, especially produced to engage younger audiences.