EXCLUSIVE: It’s no secret that representation and inclusion of Indigenous communities all over the world needs some help in Hollywood. Native people stateside have been fighting for equity in all spaces through many organizations and movements — and we have seen major strides with shows like Rutherford Falls on Peacock. The amplifying Indigenous voices is about to get stronger as the first Aboriginal Australian-led creative movement United Stages Collective is set to launch in the United States.
The group, which was founded by writer/producer Sam Cook, actors Madison Prince and Matt Coleman, and writer Julia Moriarty, looks to amplify the presence of First Nations artists both in front of and behind the camera, as well as to provide support for Indigenous creatives in America. While the core of the group is Aboriginal Australians, the United Stages Collective represents the opportunity for intersection and collaboration between all Indigenous and Black artists in Hollywood.
The stories of Aboriginal Australians have largely been represented in the arts through the lens of white filmmakers such as Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971), Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), and Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008). The Collective offers a way for these stories to be repped by their own voices, in perhaps a more authentic way.
“As Aboriginal people we come from a background which places art as central to society,” said Cook. “Through the United Stages Collective we hope to share our cultures and stories with the world.”
The United Stages Collective is supported by the California Arts Council. It has origins in the premiere of the first full length production of Aboriginal Australian theatre in Los Angeles, the 2019 staging of Seven Stages of Grieving at the Skylight Theatre.
Australian Indigenous narratives and representation is beginning to thrive in film and TV. Filmmaker Taika Waititi has always embraced his Indigenous roots with his storytelling — even when in the MCU. On Thor: Ragnarok, he made sure to cast Indigenous people and dropped easter eggs throughout the film to pay homage to his culture. He continued this sentiment in the forthcoming sequel, Thor Love and Thunder.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker has also teamed with Native American filmmaker Sterlin Harjo for the Indigenous-centered comedy Reservation Dogs which is set to debut on FX on Hulu in August.
Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY has also been bolstering Indigenous stories including the Hepi Mita-directed documentary Merata spotlights the life of the titular pioneering Indigenous filmmaker and activist Merata Mita, the first woman from an Indigenous Nation to solely direct a film anywhere in the world. ARRAY also released Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn‘s critically acclaimed drama The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, a one-shot film that follows an Indigenous woman as she helps Rosie (Violet Nelson), a First Nations woman who has just been a victim of domestic abuse. To add to that, ARRAY recently acquired the drama Cousins directed by award-winning Māori filmmaking duo Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith.