Manning-based Biripi filmmaker Grant Saunders delves into Australian hip hop music for his next documentary, Break It Down Under, shining a light on social justice issues impacting our Indigenous communities including police brutality, over policing, over-incarceration and Aboriginal deaths in custody.
Grant, whose previous work includes the documentary Teach a Man to Fish, has been working on Break It Down Under for the past two years.
Studying a Doctor of Creative Arts through the University of Technology in Sydney, Grant is creating the film as his major creative work and will also submit a 30,000-word paper to support the film, which he also hopes to publish.
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Now, he is seeking funding to complete the project and has started a crowdfunding campaign as well as working on a submission to reapply for Screen Australia funding, with the next round closing in July.
"The crowdfunding website is hosted by the Documentary Australia Foundation, and is slightly different to other crowdfunding sites like Go Fund Me etc," he said.
"This one is linked to philanthropy and allows larger corporations and organisations as well as individuals to make tax deductible donations to support films covering social justice, climate change and various other humanitarian causes."
"It's a hard time to promote crowdfunding when a lot of people are losing work, but it is coming up to the end of the financial year and a great time for larger companies to receive a tax break. I really appreciate what people can give. We all need entertainment and education."
Break It Down Under highlights the work of Indigenous and minority ethnic hip hop artists in Australia, what their music speaks to and gives a visual to the lyrics.
What I wanted to do was give more social, political and historical context to the lyrics, using film archive, newsreel footage and other experts to speak to what the artists are writing about.Grant Saunders
Grant hopes it will create a deeper audience appreciation for the music people are dancing to, listening to and embracing on the radio and to engage audiences into necessary conversations around the social justice issues that these artists are speaking back to.
"It touches on the history of Australian hip hop but especially focuses on the rise of minority Australian voices that have established themselves in the industry in the past 10 years or so and are finally being embraced and getting a platform, using a vehicle that is so popular world-wide."
He said hip hop is the longest surviving form of popular music around the world and gives people from around the globe a way to express their personal journeys, social concerns and give voice to a life a lot of people are oblivious, uninformed and ignorant to.
It was the Black Lives Matter track, performed by Birdz on Triple J in 2016, that inspired him to start work on the film.
Break It Down Under features Australian hip hop artist Stephen Carr-Saunders, a relation of Grant's who performs under the MC name, Sonboy.
"His mother Carmen Saunders is Biripi and lives here in Purfleet, after moving from Redfern and Mt Druitt."
Stephen grew up in Redfern and Grant said while the film takes a broadstroke look at the social aspects of hip hop in Australia and what it speaks back to, it also takes a microscopic look at Redfern's history, politics, society and culture.
Grant said Sonboy grew up experiencing first hand police brutality and over-policing and community dysfunction.
It touches on the history of Australian hip hop but especially focuses on the rise of minority Australian voices that have established themselves in the industry in the past 10 years or so and are finally being embraced and getting a platform, using a vehicle that is so popular world-wide.Grant Saunders
His work speaks to breaking a cycle of crime he experienced directly and indirectly through his brothers, cousins and other community members, the merry go round of the juvenile system, the gentrification of Redfern and the memories Aboriginal people have of the place and its importance to Australia's history.
"Redfern had the first Aboriginal Medical Centre and the first Aboriginal Legal Service, the community-controlled sector was born out of the political activism from Redfern" explained Grant.
"Sonboy's story is a vehicle into the exploration of Redfern's politics, history, society and culture."
Grant said there is a small amount of filming still to do in Redfern to explore where it is now, but the funding is mostly needed to pay for expensive film archive and music licenses as well as post-production professionals.
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He is also looking to get an animator on board, a graphic designer, a more senior editor, online grading and sound mixing and so this project will also be responsible for employing people who have been losing work since COVID-19.
"I'm hoping to get it polished by the end of the year if I get the funding to do so."
If the Screen Australia funding comes in along with a successful crowd funding campaign, he said he has a good chance to afford the help he needs to finish off the film, but if he isn't successful he will do what he can to get the film out.
"I've spent too much time and effort to have it shelved."
He would like to see it premiere at the Sydney Film Festival and also shown at Hot Docs in Canada and the Sundance Film Festival in the US.
"I want it to be exposed to as many eyeballs as possible."
It will also be distributed by Cinema on Demand as well as Video on Demand and hopefully a local broadcaster.
Grant said the ultimate experience for a filmmaker is to sit with an audience watching it for the first time and experiencing what the audience is feeling while they watch it but more importantly having discussions with audience members, who can in turn educate family members and friends on the issues that the film raises.
He's hoping to host national and international event-based screenings, where audiences can directly engage with experts in sociologists, legal professionals and hip hop artists as well as hip hop performances.
"Big goals but hopefully we'll get there."
To support Break It Down Under go to https://documentaryaustralia.com.au/project/break-it-down-under-the-revolutionary-voices-in-australian-hip-hop/
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