The seasoned ABC Open journalist Catherine Marciniak has covered hundreds of stories on the human condition. We asked her: Does someone in that position ever become hardened to emotion? Her answers may move you.
The seven examples she gave in quick-fire succession to our writer, Gail Knight, put her “smack in the middle of some intensely emotional interviewing moments, and displayed how Catherine’s mind has catalogued them away with the utmost of care”.
Catherine’s final experience relates to her current Byron Bay Film festival (BBFF) entry.
She explains: “In Bundjalung Language Detectives, how could I not be moved as the elders told their story of the Baryulgil mine and how they believe a generation of men have died from asbestos related diseases.”
It’s a dark heart to a film that delivers so much light and promise. In the town of Baryulgil, about an hour west of Grafton in Queensland, the elders who survived the horror of asbestos mining are the last to use a fading language.
Sister and brother combination, Bianca Monaghan and Dean Loadsman are now striving to bring that lingo back to the younger generation. This lingo is written in only one book – the Bundjalung dictionary and even then pronunciations need cross-checking with elders.
It is Dean and Bianca’s hope that the rebuilding of the Baryulgil lingo will help to address the issues of drugs, alcohol and violence engulfing local kids.
Catherine, a non-indigenous filmmaker, told about how she observed the deep spiritual beliefs and connection to land while filming.
“The primary lesson is leaving space for the protocols of meeting and listening to elders, and not trying to do things my way – often a hard one for someone who is used to directing.’
“I am not Indigenous but the love of country is something I appreciate … so combining the much deeper spiritual connection to country that Aboriginal people feel, and finding a collaborative way to represent that filmicly, is an exciting creative challenge.”
Catherine has featured in the previous five years at BBFF and admits to giving in to the seduction of making short film.
“The stories can … be rich, layered, challenging, inspiring and powerful.”
Her fondness for the annual event is obvious.
“This festival champions innovation … I am always stimulated by the diversity of work and the viewpoints brought by an often younger generation of screen-makers.’
What’s next for Catherine?
“I am editing a video called Flashdance 2484, where a whole community was inspired by Uki’s dynamo Anna Camilleri, to dance a message of social inclusion at the Murwillumbah Farmers’ Market.
“And in 2017, I will be looking at working with a few local Aboriginal communities in the lead-up to the commemoration of the 1967 referendum.”