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Interview with Director Wayne Blair

Bangarra Dance Theatre. Photo by Daniel Boud

The Bangarra Story

The Byron Bay Film Festival is one of the first major events to make its way back onto the social calendar, opening on Friday at The Palace with a sold out session of Firestarter. There will be other screenings over the festival, as it is a film that everyone should see. Director Wayne Blair shared some of his story with The Echo.

What was it about Bangarra that inspired you to make a documentary?

Nel Minchin, the film’s co-director, and Ivan O’Mahoney, our producer, asked me to co-direct and I said ‘Yes’. I thought Firestarter was a story that needed to be told, and also I had worked for the company back in 2000 with a show called Skin and I have worked with Stephen Page in many forms; film, dance and theatre.

Were you worried that you’d be able to encapsulate the story in a way that did it justice?

Yes – it’s very hard to tell a story of over thirty years. I wish we had another hour up our sleeves!

I am interested, as a filmmaker that you manage to navigate the painful and sensitive areas of the story – especially the deaths of David and Stephen?

Nel, Karen and I, and Nick – one of our editors – were very respectful of the balance of these moments in the film. Always careful communicating about how to best translate the time and experience. Collaboration was key with people of experience and heart. We shared the film with family members and company members as well for feedback and changes.

How did you approach telling this story?

As we began filming the story three years sgo, on and off mind you, because of the schedule, the story started to tell us how to tell it. The heart became apparent, and the story of how the company began and where the company is today.

What archival footage did you manage to find to tell the story of the beginnings?

We had access to personal Page family archives, archival material from news sources from Australia and the world and from the Bangarra Dance Theatre.

What do you think, in the telling of this story, underpins the power of Bangarra? What can dance do sometimes that talking can’t?

Dance is an art form that educates and inspires like no other.

It can cross cultures and be performed by anyone. Dance is as old as time itself. Dance is my culture so it’s very important when you are born to it, when you travel to the other side.

How do you want people to leave this film? What do you want them to take back into their worlds?

It is a story about dance, family, culture and human connection and how that is important to us all.

For the program and screening details of all films over the festival (starting Friday 1 Nov) go to bbff.com.au


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