Making of ‘I Am Black and Beautiful’ – with Joni Campbell
Joni, tell us, how did you and your class prepare to make ‘I am Black and Beautiful’?
In the weeks before shooting the documentary we learned about the refugee experience with our tutor Sarah Johnson. One film we studied called Wardance really made an impact on me. My eyes were opened to what many young people around the world face on a daily basis. The children featured in Wardance were from a country called Uganda. The documentary shows the things they’ve seen and been through. But it also showed how music makes them feel happy. The children who have seen and lived through the horrible things in the war are able to forget about all the hard times when they play the music and dance. The documentary gave us an understanding of what people in the world are going through. It made us really think of how lucky we all are to live in such a country that’s safe. The course has made us think of others and feel empathy for them.
What made you connect with the refugee experience?
When we watched Wardance, in class, I felt like I understood a little bit more about what a refugee is. There were 3 children in Wardance. Two girls and one boy. The boys name is Dominic and he is an amazing xylophone player. Dominic and was so clever that he made his own xylophone out of old wood during the war. Rose, one of the girls, was a singer but also worked as a house-slave. Rose had such a beautiful voice, Rose is my age and I also like to sing. Nancy was a phenomenal dancer who dance with so much emotion and happiness. I didn’t feel different to them. Our whole class learnt so much from studying Wardance, it helped us Make ‘I am Black and Beautiful’.
How did filming a documentary, with the class, help you understand even more about the Afro-Australian experience?
The shooting day was so much fun where we hands on experience on all different roles and we were also lucky to meet the lovely women that got interviewed. One of the women were talking about skin bleaching and how they would use products to make their skin look lighter. Often the women are under pressure to change or they were told that being lighter was more beautiful. Which isn’t true. Other women spoke about how their natural hair and beautiful black skin should be celebrated and loved. There were also 3 amazing professional dancers that spoke their thoughts through dance. We were lucky enough, that before the shoot day, one of those dancers (who’s name is Malaika) actually taught us some traditional African dancing. Which was a lot of fun and also quite challenging as a lot of the moves were fast.
What aspect of film-making did you participate with on-set?
Before the shoot we chose what roles and departments we would like to experience on set. I chose directing and 1stAD. I got to work with amazing Topher Dow, who is a very experienced film-maker and really knows how to run the film set! ‘Quiet on set’ ‘we are going for a take’ I got to call that out! I also got to help choose good takes with Hawanatu Bangura, the wonderful director!
How do you think we can be better supporters of cultural differences in Australia after your experience making this film?
Throughout this subject we also learnt about the sort of questions the women are face every day, such as, ‘where are you from?’, ‘How long you’ve been here’….. and other questions. These questions have made them feel uncomfortable. For all the women their life would have felt like a jigsaw puzzle because they’re moving from their country to another. This is because of certain bad circumstances. Feeling like and outsider and like they don’t belong. But by being kind and inclusive we can all make a difference. That way, in the end everything works out and all the pieces fit together when we support and understand each other.
That is very very true!! Are you excited to showcase ‘I Am Black and Beautiful’?
I’ve loved learning all about black beauty. I’ve also enjoyed hearing the voices of people who move from other countries to Australia and the experiences they have had.
It’s been a great year so far and I can’t wait to showcase our documentary and I hope it will make the audience feel touched. Because it has touched us.
These extraordinary women are so inspirational and have taught us so much. They have become our friends and a special part of our lives.
In the future I hope we get the opportunity to make more documentaries as I’ve really been enjoying learning about them.
With the documentary it’s made me appreciate how lucky I am, and to not stress about silly things. Especially when there are worse things going on in the world. I’ve learnt to be more greatful for the things I have, and not worry about the things I don’t. If you have a roof over your head and a meal on your plate and have somewhere to live then you’re already the luckiest person. I would love to do something to help people that are living get in countries where there aren’t warm and they don’t have somewhere to sleep.
It sounds like you have become a great advocate since doing this course!
Absolutely! I say as a community we can all come together and do something to change all of this! For example doing some fund raising or visiting their country to build homes and perhaps fund some play equipment? I’m hoping we can all make a change for the better.
I also like to send a letter to the children from Wardance with our Documentary, to show how they are impacting our lives greatly.
That sounds like an awesome idea for term 4!
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