Global Cinema is an elective subject offered in the School of Communication (part of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences). The subject is designed to introduce students to film from around the world and to show the role film can play in affecting change through the representation of marginalised communities. When designing the subject I had the opportunity to include the Indigenous Graduate Attribute (IGA) and to align the subject learning objectives and an assessment task to the IGA. I decided to include an Australian Indigenous filmmaker profile as an assessment item and the outcomes have been very encouraging so far (the subject has been running in Autumn session since 2016).

Assessment in Global Cinema

The students are asked to choose an Australian Indigenous filmmaker and write a profile of the filmmaker that includes a critical analysis of the representation of Indigenous experience that is contained in the filmmaker’s body of work. Students are expected to conduct independent research and to watch the films of their chosen filmmaker.

Scaffolding is provided in the three weeks leading up to the assessment submission in the form of a series of lectures and tutorial activities relating to Indigenous representation in film. The first of the lectures in this series focuses on Native American representation in film and points to the ways in which stereotypes have caused lasting harm to Native American people. The next lecture explores the representation of Pacific Island culture and challenges the ways in which white filmmakers have depicted Pacific Island culture. In the third lecture the focus is on Australian Indigenous representation and uses the work of Marcia Langton, Ernie Blackmore and Aileen Moreton-Robinson to show how Indigenous Australians have been subject to the coloniser’s gaze, and to argue for the importance of self-representation (illustrated through the work of contemporary Indigenous filmmakers).

How students have responded

The teaching teams have found that students respond very well to this assessment task and embrace the research and watching of Indigenous films with enthusiasm. The assessments submitted showed a thoughtful engagement with the topic and an understanding of the legacies of colonisation in Australia. It is the films that bring this home to the non-Indigenous students – the films create empathy through connection with characters and their circumstances and students are drawn into the nuanced representations in very meaningful ways.

Overall, embedding the IGA into a subject is not difficult. There is a wealth of material written and created by Indigenous Australians that can be used as subject and teaching resources. I would suggest that including the IGA in Global Cinema has fostered greater understanding of Indigenous issues for non-Indigenous students, and has been important in developing students’ competencies in relation to Indigenous Australia.

Feature image by Jeremy Yap

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