First Nations Films We’ll Be Rewatching This NAIDOC Week, And Beyond

First Nations Films We’ll Be Rewatching This NAIDOC Week, And Beyond

From the outrageously funny sing-along’s to more sombre recounts of Australian colonisation, contemporary film is (at last) making space for Indigenous storytelling, creatives, and production. 

We’ve taken the hard part (the browsing every streaming service for five hours, part) out of deciding what to watch. Here are the top nine films or tv series to revisit in honour of NAIDOC Week 2024.

Bran Nue Dae (2009)

Available to watch on: SBS

A musical dramedy adapted from the stage production of the same name, Bran Nue Dae follows rebellious teen Willie who runs away from his Catholic boarding school, determined to hitchhike all the way home and capture the heart of his childhood crush (played by Jessica Mauboy). As irreverent as its star cast - Ernie Dingo, Missy Higgins, Magda Szubanski, Deborah Mailman - this has become an Aussie classic. 

Jasper Jones (2017)

Available to rent on: Prime Video

Based on Craig Silvey’s award winning novel of the same name, Jasper Jones explores prejudice and racism through the eyes of teens. When 14-year-old Charlie is awoken one night by Jasper, who shows him the dead body of a girl, he sets out to find her real killer to avoid his friend fronting the blame. A thought-provoking, coming-of-age, must-watch. 

Mystery Road (2012)

Available to watch on: ABC iview

A spinoff series that marries the plot of Aussie feature films Mystery Road and Goldstone. This neo-western-crime-mystery hybrid follows Indigenous detective, Jay Swan, as he delves into criminal cases that uncover the still-fresh wounds of colonisation. The director, Rachel Perkins (daughter of Charles Perkins, and director of Bran Nue Dae and Jasper Jones above!) took on season one. Warwick Thornton (director of Samson And Deliliah below!) nabbed season two, and Thornton’s son, Dylan River, was at the helm of season three. 

Rabbit Proof Fence (2002)

Available to watch on: Netflix, Stan

The devastating true story of three Aboriginal girls who are stolen from their land and their families back in 1931, to be trained as ‘domestic staff’. A gut wrenching depiction of the Stolen Generation. Molly, Gracie, and Daisy miraculously escape and use their inherent knowledge of Country to return home; a journey riddled with danger. 

Redfern Now (2012)

Available to watch on: ABC iview

While heavily gentrified in recent years/decades, Redfern remains one of Sydney’s suburbs steeped in Indigenous history. So naturally, the first TV series commissioned, written, produced, and acted by Indigenous Australians would be set there. Redfern Now traces the modern ramifications of colonialism via the lives of six families settled in the suburb.

Samson And Delilah (2009)

Available to watch on: Netflix, SBS

The debut feature film by Warwick Thornton (that went on to win the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009) follows a pair of 14-year-olds living in an isolated community in the Central Australian desert. When they steal the only car in the community, with plans of eloping to Alice Springs, Samson and Delilah find themselves falling in love on the road despite all its challenges. 

The Drover’s Wife (2021)

Available to watch on: SBS

The first Australian feature film to be written, directed, and starring a First Nations woman: Leah Purcell. The Drover’s Wife is a reworking of Australian bush poet Henry Lawson’s 1892 short story of the same name, only reimagined through an Indigenous and feminist lens. Watch in awe as a lonely woman takes to running the family farm, raising (and fiercely protecting) her children, while her husband is away. 

The Sapphires (2012)

Available to rent on: Apple TV

Loosely based on the story of the real-life singing group, The Sapphires stars four Australian icons - Deborah Mailman, Shar Sebbens, Jessica Mauboy, and Miranda Tapsell - in a hit musical drama. In the late 60s this quirky First Nations quartet is recruited to sing for American troops in Vietnam, as the longstanding effects of the Stolen Generation start to unravel on the road. A feel-good film with incredibly catchy musical performances. 

Top End Wedding (2019)

Available to rent on: Apple TV

This gem of a rom-com also stars Aussie film darling, Miranda Tapsell, who plays Lauren; the newly engaged lawyer. When her boss advises she can only take 10 days leave for the wedding she settles on getting married in her hometown of Darwin. After flying home to discover her mum has gone AWOL, she embarks on a journey to find her, but instead, discovers more about her family trauma, her culture, and her need to be connected to her community.