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|A number of Processes were involved in the production of this film:
Film Production / Original idea - Aboriginal Consultation / Financing.
Quenten Agius with Kym Burke, Black Point land developer
FILM PRODUCTION / POST-PRODUCTION
Kim Mavromatis (Producer / Director)...."SACRED GROUND is historically accurate - the film isn’t compromised by trying to keep everyone happy. Confronting the truth will be difficult and painful for some people.
Two weeks into filming (Feb 2002), Quenten Agius and his nephew Chris discover ancient human skeletal remains in the middle of a multi-million dollar housing development at Black Point on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia. I was on site within an hour of their discovery. This is where the film starts. I spent the next 4 years documenting Quenten and his family's struggle to try and save the Black Point burial ground and other cultural sites under threat from development.
Throughout the entire filming process (except for about 3 months) I was the entire crew - producer, director, cinematographer and sound recordist. It's the only way I could afford to spend so much time filming Quenten and his family. For the first 2 years I spent 6 months of each year filming - the last 2 years I only filmed events that I thought were specifically related to the story. Financially it was very difficult for me, trying to run a business while spending huge amounts of time doing unpaid work. It was also emotionally tough - just like Quenten and his family - I felt their pain, their anger - it was really difficult for everyone. I don't know how they stayed sane? And they are still fighting the same issues today.
Throughout the whole process I had great support from David Jowsey (ABC Executive Producer) and Emma Forgie (SAFC Project Officer). In fact my entire crew have just been fantastic. One of the best choices I made early was to secure the services of one of Australia's best doco editors, Andrew Arestides. Andrew shaped the film, helped me identify the story and was really supportive and patient with me. Andrew is a gifted editor and a great storyteller and we got along like a house on fire. 150 hours of footage was cut down to one compelling hour of viewing. From editing, to sound mixing and music composing and design, I can't say enough good things about my crew.
This is a rich film, a film of personal struggle, of pain, of sorrow, but most of all it’s a major achievement for Quenten and his family and I’m privileged to have helped them bring this story to a national audience - exposing the desecration and destruction of Aboriginal heritage, Australia’s ancient heritage, that is occurring in this country".
Traditional Elders and sisters, Irene Agius and Elaine Newchurch
ORIGINAL IDEA / ABORIGINAL CONSULTATION
Kim Mavromatis (Producer / Director)...."In 2000 I shot an ABC News story about Wardang Island.
The Aboriginal fellas who took me to the Island said that the Island would be a good subject for a documentary. I did some documentary training with the South Australian Film Corporation and was looking for an idea for a documentary and I knew some of the history of the island and thought it would be a good subject. I asked the Point Pearce Community Council (Goreta Aboriginal Corporation) if it was Ok for me to spend some time in the community talking to people and doing some research, because I was interested in filming a documentary about Wardang Island and Point Pearce. They said go-ahead.
I spent the next 15 months travelling to and from the Point Pearce Aboriginal community, talking to many people, including traditional elders Irene Agius and Elaine Newchurch.
In Feb 2002, the Encounter 2002 celebrations (celebrating 200 years of European settlement) was a major event on the South Australian calendar - I thought it would be a good time to commence filming. I asked the Point Pearce Community Council if I could start filming the documentary and they approved. At the time Elaine Newchurch was the chairperson of the Point Pearce council, Irene Agius was an elected member of the council and Quenten Agius was employed by the Point Pearce council as heritage and cultural officer. Elaine and Irene (highly respected elders of the community) and Quenten were my Aboriginal consultants - and they also became central characters in the film. Throughout most of the filming process, Irene was also the State Aboriginal Heritage Committee Representative for the area. Quenten was to become chairperson of the Narungga / Adjahdura Heritage Committee.
2 weeks into filming Quenten Agius and his nephew Chris discover ancient skeletal remains in the middle of a multi-million dollar housing development at Black Point. I was interviewing Irene and Elaine at the time at Point Pearce. Within one hour I was at the site - police were called in and they examined the skull.
The scull was given to Colin Pardoe, an expert in ancient skeletal remains. In his report he stated the Black Point scull was Aboriginal and could be up to 2,000 years old. This confirmed what Quenten and his family already knew.
Boundary pegs, a few metres away from the burial, indicated that the area was subdivided and ready for land development. The burial was under threat and was going to be bulldozed. This was a major story.
The Narungga Nations native title committee had just Incorporated so I thought I should talk to them as well. By now I was following a number of stories including the Black Point story. I sent the native title committee a letter in July 2002 and I went along to a meeting at Marion Bay in Aug 2002. I explained to them what I was filming and that the Point Pearce Community Council and Traditional Elders Irene Agius and Elaine Newchurch gave me the OK to start filming. The native title committee wouldn’t commit to supporting the film but said they couldn’t stop me anyway.
I had to start focusing on one story – the most important story – the Black Point story. I stopped filming all the other stories including Wardang Island. By now Quenten had become an important figure in the film and the film had become a personal story of Quenten and his family trying to save their heritage and cultural sites.
It had been quite some time since I first communicated with the native title committee and still had no official letter from them. I sent them a second letter in Feb 2003 and then a 3rd letter in Aug 2003 asking to meet with the committee. It had been 14 months since I first communicated with the native title committee. 14 months, 1 initial meeting and 3 letters later I received a letter from the native title committee saying they weren’t going to support the film. I then wrote a 4th letter in Sept 2003 to the native title committee asking for the opportunity to talk to them about the film and any issues they may have? I never heard from them again. After my initial contact it took the native title committee 14 months to get back to me – I had been filming for 20 months.
I spoke to Irene, Elaine, the Point Pearce community Council and the newly formed Narungga Heritage Committee, about the letter from the native title committee - they all supported the film, so I continued filming.
In the final years of production I became aware of many issues in the wider community. Aboriginal politics - family feuds - power struggles - conflicts of interest - and the influence of non-traditional owners, all affected the way business was done.
A Rough cut of the film (1hour 20mins) was viewed by Quenten, Irene and Elaine - their comments were positive. The fine cut of the film (55mins) was screened in the presence of Quenten, Irene, Elaine and their family. Minor adjustments were made to the film and Quenten, Irene and Elaine gave their approval to the final cut.
In Feb 2007 I wrote a letter to the Point Pearce community council asking them to give me permission to screen the film in the Point Pearce community - but unfortunately the community had been in liquidation for a year and the community council is in the process of reforming.
Quenten Agius, the Chairperson of the Adjahdura/Narungga Heritage Committee, and his mothers, Irene Agius and Elaine Newchurch, the oldest true Traditional elders living on the Aboriginal community of Point Pearce are recognized heritage authorities of their country. Throughout most of the filming process, Irene was also the State Aboriginal Heritage Committee Representative for the area. I felt comfortable that the central characters of the film were also the film's Aboriginal consultants. At the end of the day, this film is a personal journey about them.
Quenten Agius....."Kim Mavromatis (the filmmaker) has consulted with us all the way. Many of my family have seen the film and we are happy with the way it turned out. Kim helped us tell our story, 6 years he has been with us, this is our story, my mothers story - nobody has the right to deny us from telling our story”.
Quenten Agius - Adjahdura traditional owner - story teller
Not taking into consideration the initial research period (15months) - from the commencement of filming (Feb 2002), this film was 5 years in the making. The production (filming) process was self funded by the filmmaker and took 4 years to complete. The post-production (editing) process took just over a year to complete and was funded by the South Australian Film Corporation, Australian Film Commission and the ABC.
The filmmaker invested a substantial amount of his own money into the film.
The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) came onboard early and contributed facilities, a small cash investment and licence fee. The ABC commitment was most important because it triggered state and national film agency investment.
The SAFC (South Australian Film Corporation), also came onboard early, and is the major Film agency investor in the film. Their support from the beginning was invaluable.
The AFC (Australian Film Commission) was the final film agency investor to come onboard. The film was submitted 5 times to the AFC before successfully securing AFC investment through strand "N". This enabled the post-production of the film to be completed. Since investing the AFC have been strong supporters of the film.