Firestarter tells the story of the Bangarra Dance Theatre, focusing on the three Page brothers who were there from its beginnings.
On a weekend when Katherine's weather put on a pretty spectacular show, Firestarter had much to contend with and it delivered in spades.
Growing up in Brisbane during the 70s and 80s, the film commences with the home videos of the Page brothers and the rest of their 12 siblings. Nostalgic images of suburban childhood backyards, sprinklers, dress ups, parties and a whole lot of play and it's not hard to see where the brother's love of performance comes from.
After moving to Sydney along with his two brothers, 24-year-old Stephen Page quickly becomes the artistic director of the newly formed Bangarra.
The fearlessness of youth is portrayed both in the creativity of the choreography and in the feat of starting an all Aboriginal dance company.
If he's afraid or doubtful, the film doesn't show it and some of the early dance pieces are the most enjoyable to watch. Strong, young black bodies combine a growing knowledge of traditional dance (Arhnem's Yirrkala community gets a mention) with contemporary movement.
For those not thrilled by contemporary dance, the brother's story and the telling of Australia's recent history through an Aboriginal perspective are engaging. Plus, it's just quite nice to look at beautiful bodies for an hour or so, and there is no finer body and dancer than the youngest brother, Russell Page.
Russell is the obvious star and light in the room, both powerful and graceful and as one observer in the film describes it, 'he speaks with his body'.
He's got the swagger of Michael Hutchence (or has Michael Hutchence got his?).
The finest dance performance in the film comes from Russell, outside, in the red dirt and it's as if he is the earth.
Bangarra means to make fire in Waradjuri, and you can feel it being made watching him move.
Interviews with other performers, critics and the Page family keep the story moving as we cover Bangarra's evolution, both in its choreography and the brother's story.
The film's humble storytelling makes it easy to not recognise that Bangarra was right there for some of the last few decade's most important moments - Paul Keating's 1992 Redfern Speech, the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics.
Early life for the Page brothers looks colourful and busy and fun, with very little time for introspection.
But the film's lightness delicately fades as the brothers age and confront unthinkable tragedies, suicide in particular. As the film's content becomes more serious so too the intensity of the dance and music that accompanies it.
The final scenes see Stephen, the more responsible brother, coming to terms with his role in his family, and Bangarra's role in culture and the confronting enormity of it all.
Talking to a room of his peers he struggles to find words as he accepts a prestigious Helpmann Award, with his son next to him.
In the middle of the bush he confronts his grief and you're reminded of how far the brothers have come and so too the audience in watching.
It feels bold to start my movie reviewing with a 5 star, but it's hard to fault Firestarter, the story itself and the sheer pleasure of the images.
The film opens by sharing a truth; art, dance and music are such good medicine. And on a rainy Sunday afternoon, nothing could be truer.
Who should go and see this? People who've been meaning to join a yoga class and need inspiration on just what the body can do. And those, like me, who just like to look at pretty things.
Firestarter is showing this Wednesday at midday and 6pm, and for the rest of February tickets are $10.
It's a distant second to seeing Bangarra live, but for the medley of performances in the film, consider it a bargain.
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