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1h 21m Documentary 2021

Yorta Yorta/Wiradjuri opera singer Tiriki Onus uncovers the story behind a silent film made by his grandfather, civil rights activist Bill Onus, thought to be the first Aboriginal filmmaker.

When filmmaker Alec Morgan came across a black-and-white silent film reel at Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive, he had reason to believe it was made by William ‘Bill’ Onus, the revered, trailblazing activist whose work changed the course of history in Australia. After getting in touch with Bill’s grandson, opera singer Tiriki Onus, the two embarked on a years-long journey to uncover the story behind the film reel.

From just ten minutes of silent film, Tiriki uncovers decades of history about his grandfather, and what life was like for Aboriginal people in the 1940s and throughout the 20th century.

Following a caravan fire in the 1960s, Bill Onus’ entire catalogue of films were thought forever lost. With Ablaze, Tiriki Onus presents a necessary reappraisal of Australia’s history, and cements his grandfather’s status as one of this country’s most important filmmakers.

An exhibit on Bill Onus’ influence on Australian cinema is on display in ACMI’s centrepiece exhibition, The Story of the Moving Image.


Alec Morgan


Tiriki Onus







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