/News 02.03.16


Screen Australia reports on the high-end Australian indigenous TV series Cleverman, creating international interest and buzz.

When Indigenous Australian filmmakers reimagined the 60,000-year-old stories of their culture for a modern audience, the result was an ambitious, television series that is generating global excitement.

An official Australian/New Zealand co-production between Goalpost Pictures Australia and Pukeko Pictures, it was filmed in Sydney last year for ABC TV Australia and produced in association with Screen Australia, Screen NSW and Red Arrow International.

The ensemble cast featured 80 per cent Indigenous actors, including Deborah Mailman (The Sapphires) and Hunter Page-Lochard (Spear), alongside international names such as Iain Glen (Game of Thrones) and Frances O’Connor (The Missing).

And the attention surrounding the series has only continued to climb. Last September, the Sundance Channel acquired the US rights. Then in February, Cleverman was invited to screen at Berlinale.

“The inclusion in Berlinale is an incredible coup for the Australian television industry and a tremendous boost for Indigenous storytelling,” Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said at the time.

It went on to make its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, as just one of six international programs chosen for the Berlinale Special Series.

Already, journalists have been taken by the way Cleverman has tapped into timely universal issues ranging from refugees to racism.  All this, while never compromising on the Indigenous stories at its core.

Directed by Wayne Blair (The Sapphires) and Leah Purcell (Redfern Now), Cleverman is set in a dystopian Sydney in the near future, where superhuman ‘Hairypeople’ are battling for survival as they are contained or sent off to detention centres by humans.

The main focus is around two estranged brothers (Hunter Page-Lochard and Rob Collins), who are forced to fight together for their own survival.

Filmmaker Ryan Griffen says the idea grew from him wanting to create an Indigenous superhero for his young son that would still connect him to his own culture.

“It’s a modern story with ancient roots, about how humans treat others in a world where Aboriginal dreamtime creatures exist,” he told Screen Australia.

ABC TV Australia went on to release a short clip from Cleverman following its premiere at Berlinale, only adding to the intrigue and growing anticipation surrounding the upcoming series.

** Read more on Screen Australia’s The Screen Blog