• Written by Aidan McLaughlin

Cinematic dreamtime from around the world, the Winda Film Festival brings together tales of happiness to hardship, and gives voice to a diverse Global Indigenous film community.

Held from 10-13 November at Hoyts EQ Moore Park, the Festival opens on Thursday 10 with Lee Tamahori’s Mahana at Dendy Opera Quays

The inaugural festival will screen six feature films and four documentaries alongside 22 short films from more than eight countries, including 14 Australian premieres and one World premiere. Winda also features two free Black Talks and Virtual Reality experiences.

Festival Artistic Director Pauline Clague said, “Winda Film Festival is an exciting new festival bringing Indigenous film and filmmakers from across Australia and around the world to Sydney audiences. These international and local films shine a light on our shared celebrations, struggles and stories, giving us insight and connection to the universal storylines of Indigenous nations.”

“The inspiration for Winda, which means ‘stars’ in the Gumbaynggirr language from the north coast of New South Wales comes from Aboriginal Astronomy.  We look to the stars for guidance, creation, and for our ancestors,” she said.

The Festival’s opening night film Mahana, sees Lee Tamahori’s welcome return to New Zealand home soil after 20 years in Hollywood.  The film reunites the award winning director with his Once Were Warriors star Temuera Morrison in a moving 1960s-set family drama about the enduring rivalry between two Maori sheep-shearing families.

Australian Indigenous writer-director Ivan Sen’s critically acclaimed film Goldstone will also screen.  The stylish and intelligent outback noir showcases a stellar Australian cast including Aaron Pedersen, Jacki Weaver, David Wenham, and David Gulpilil. 

There are a plethora of films from Indigenous peoples in as far afield as Norway and Finland, Russia, Canada and the United States.  Closer to home we have films from Western Samoa, from our neighbours in New Zealand; as well as an incredible film from many Australian Aboriginal nations. 

Exciting curated nights of short films include North American Shorts from Turtle Island, Australian Shorts from the Bush and from the Milky Way, and Native Slam: an incredible and powerful collaboration of international Indigenous filmmakers.

Festival goers can also look forward to a selection of fascinating filmmaking guests and talent from across the globe, who will present their films and participate in talks.

The inaugural Winda Film Festival is made possible in part to generous industry sponsors: Screen Australia, Screen NSW, Sydney City of Film, imagineNATIVE, NITV and Macquarie Bank.

Tickets are on sale now at https://windafilmfest.com


  • Indigenous Maori acrtress Nancy Brunning will be in attendance for the screening of Mahana. Having won Best Actress at the New Zealand Film and TV Awards, Brunning is a household name and is a welcome addition to the film festival. Mahana Is the Opening Night Film, and Director Lee Tamahori’s welcome return to filming in New Zealand after 20 years in Hollywood.
  • Hawaiian urban art living legend Estria Miyashiro who features in the documentary Mele Murals, on the transformative power of modern graffiti art and ancient Hawaiian culture for a new generation of Native Hawaiians, and the film’s Executive Producer Keoni Lee, co-founder of the first Native Hawaiian television station, will attend the Festival and present the Australian Premiere of their film.
  • Artistic Director at imagineATIVE and producer of short film Snip, Jason Ryle, and Andre Morriseau, Vice Chair of Canada’s imagineNATIVE, the world's largest presenter of Indigenous screen content and partner to the Festival, will attend to speak at Black Talk 2, on Indigenous Film Festivals.
  • A unique international collaboration of directors came together to create short film project Native Slam:  which paired 15 international Indigenous filmmakers, to create five short films, in 72 hours, on a budget of $800 will attend the Festival.  Using a section of their spoken and untranslated Indigenous languages. In attendance will be Kath Akuhata-Brown, NZ (Ara) Mike Jonathan, NZ (Ra’stat’ste), Chelsea Winstanley, NZ and Cornel Ozies, AUS (Sech’el), Tainui Stephens, NZ and Rima Tamou, AUS (Skoha) focused on ideas that heal.
  • The projects visionaries Libby Hakaraia, director of the Māoriland Film Festival, and Winda’s Artistic Director Pauline Clague will also present these not to be missed powerful collection of films.
  • Canadian Andrew Martin who plays a young queer Anishnabe teenager in Northern Ontario, struggling to support his family in the aftermath of his sister's suicide in Fire Song, will also attend to present the thoughtful film. 

Stay tuned to the Winda website for additional Festival guests.



  • Mahana │2016│New Zealand│ Lee Tamahori’s first feature shot in New Zealand, starring Temuera Morrison telling the tale of two rival families, romance and a quest for the truth.
  • Spear│ 2015│Australia│ from the Australian outback to the streets of Sydney, Djali (Hunter Page-Lochard) reconciles ancient tradition utilizing gesture and dance, with minimal dialogue.
  • Fire Song 2016 │Canada│ Suicide, secret love and obligation sees Shane (Andrew Martin) put his future on hold in this tale of death in a rural Indigenous community.  
  • Bonfire Australian Premiere│ 2016│Russia│looking at a father’s love from the outside, we get a glimpse into the life of a man in the Sakha Republic in Eastern Russia.
  • Goldstone │2016│Australia│Indigenous detective Jay arrives in a frontier town. Burying old differences with the local law enforcement is the only way to bring justice to the frontier town.
  • Three Wise Cousins │2015│New Zealand│Western Samoa│ when Adam overhears his dream girl say she only dates true Island boys, and not city kids, he sets on an adventure to rediscover his island roots with the help of his two cousins.


  • Mele MuralsAustralian Premiere │2016│United States│ is a feature on the transformative power of the melding of modern graffiti art with ancient Hawaiian culture. Screens with Dig It If You Can (20XX), we get up close and personal with Steven Paul Judd, the dynamic and bold 21st century Renaissance man. One of the art world’s most energetic, accessible and celebrated figures.
  • Journey to Reconciliation Australian Premiere│2016 │Canada│an account of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, exploring integrational trauma Indigenous resistance and acceptance.
  • Servant or Slave │2016│Australia│stolen from their families, five Indigenous women’s stories are explored and how there was little or no escape from a life of servitude.
  • SparrooabbánAustralian Premiere │2015│Finland, Norway│a journey into sisterhood, homosexuality and a search for acceptance by Director Suvi West and her youngest sister.



  • Gods AcreAustralian Premiere │2016│Australia│sees a man fight an all too familiar future, the options being give in to the rising tide and die, or abandon all that he knows and live.
  • SNIPAustralian Premiere│2016│ Canada│ Annie and Gordon travel back in time to save Charlie and Niska from the nightmarish genocide of Indigenous children.
  • Smoke That TravelsAustralian Premiere│2016│Canada│an insightful autobiographical documentary from self-taught filmmaker Kayla Briët, recounts the teachings of her father and is a smoke signal to the world.
  • SustoAustralian Premiere│2016│Canada│when imaginary fear takes physical form, we share a terrifying tale that is all too real to many Indigenous people in the world.


  • Director Max │2015│Australia│huge ambition, and not a lot to work with. This short sees a young Indigenous director set sail from the streets of Roebourne into the world.
  • On Country │2015│Australia│taking tradition and adding a digital touch, this animation is the product of many hands with a combined goal of communicating a modern day struggle decades old.
  • This Is Our Country │2015│Australia│health is a state of mind, or is it? This story focuses on what being healthy means to the Indigenous people of Dhalinbuy.
  • Lucky Billy │2015│Australia│a promising AFL career ahead, but fear that he may miss out on his big chance, Billy can make do and work hard or take matters into his own hands.
  • Marumpu Wangkal kukatja Hand Talk │2015│Australia│three elder women of the remote Balgo Tribe give insight into how hand gestures have been the bedrock of Indigenous communications for generations.
  • Pullija │2015│Australia│gives insight into the importance of Pulija to the Martu people, and the decades of traditional knowledge they have on the species.


  • An international collaboration of filmmakers brought together to make films in 72 hours, creating stories with heart and that could heal.
  • Ara │2016│New Zealand│Maori artist Tracey Tawhiao digs beneath the daily news of day to day life to discover a vision for a new nation.
  • RaSatste│2016│New Zealand│preparing for a homebirth for Awatea is going to be a rollercoaster ride with a loving husband, devoted daughter and irritating brother Te Hau.
  • Sechel │2016│New Zealand│when one friend has more courage than another, a precious bond is altered forever.
  • Tawhaowhao │2016│New Zealand│a man must face a harsh reality in his attempt to fix an estranged relationship between him and his 16 year old daughter.
  • Skoha 2016New Zealand│Anzac has an unwell son, jealous of his father’s new family, Martha is a woman with a missing friend fearing for the worst. SKOHA is about the gift of active love and a cry for the ones we miss


  • Nan and A Whole Lot of Trouble │2015│Australia│when two sisters collide over what one of them thinks is a treasured possession, tricks from tricksters ensue.
  • Blackbird │2015│Australia│abducted from his home and enslaved at a sugar cane plantation, Kiko is overcome with the need to return to his life in the Pacific Islands.
  • Shadows of Displacements │2015│Australia│Government policies and political discourse laid bare, revealing a brief history of displacement and marginalization of the Aboriginal people in the northwest of Australia.
  • Min Min Lights │2015│Australia│Mahlena-Mae is at the same age as her family members when they experienced the Min Min Light, a journeys to finally learn about these phenomena.
  • Black Chook │2015│ Australia │Australia’s bad days. Men killed other men and laughed. All that was left for the children of the dead was to remember – if they had the strength.



  • New trends in technology, and approaching them with a 360 perspective. Winda and Indigilab look at new trends in technology they can help Indigenous filmmakers.  


  • Meet and greet the heads of the Indigenous film movement, who are creating a hub and fostering the growth of Indigenous filmmakers worldwide.



  • Collisions │2016│Australia│is a journey to the homeland of Indigenous elder Nyarri Morgan, and a never before seen virtual reality visit to the Martu Tribe in the Pilbara desert.
  • Welcome to Garma 2016│Australia│Join Ernie Dingo in Arnhem Land to witness the largest and most vibrant celebration of Yolngu culture in a 2 minute VR experience.


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