Year of production2000
Broadcast and production partnersSBS / NHK JAPAN
Balgo Hills or Wirrimanu is located on the edge of the Tanami and Great Sandy Deserts in far north-west Australia. Despite its isolation, this is home to some of Australia’s most famous indigenous artists whose paintings hang in galleries and private collections around the world.
Balgo art is famous for its hot bright colours, bold composition and creative brush techniques. Its origins lie in the traditional designs done in sand and body paintings. But in less than 20 years it has evolved into one of the most innovative movements of modern art in Australia.
The Balgo artists draw their inspiration from their deep spiritual connection with the land. But none of these artists live in the land they paint. Most were born deep in the desert where they lived a nomadic life until the impact of white settlement forced them to seek sanctuary in missions such as Balgo.
It’s been decades since these artists have seen their country and as many are getting old, it’s time to go back.
Their journey takes them as far as spectacular Lake Mackay and on to Jupiter Well in the Gibson Desert. The film intimately portrays the life and humour of these indigenous artists. It reveals why they had to leave their country and why their relationship to the land is still fundamental to their existence.
Painting Country follows 10 celebrated artists including Lucy Yukenbarri, Helicopter Tjungarrayi, Tjumpo Tjapanangka, Sam Tjampitjin and Bai Bai Napangnarti.
In Sally Ingleton’s poignant documentary, (the artists) they travel back to their ancestral lands around the Great Sandy Desert…it is a bitter sweet journey one packed with humour, sadness and incident. One of the most accessible and engaging recent documentaries of its kind Painting County brings to the attention of a wider audience work that is not only artistically important, but represents an invaluable record of another life lived a lifetime ago.BARBARA HOOKS, The Age Green Guide, 4 Oct 2001
Sally Ingleton’s documentary PAINTING COUNTRY, tracks the 1000km round trip taken by 10 artists from the isolated Balgo Hills community…It’s not the first film to record such a journey, nor to highlight the crucial links for indigenous artists between country and painting. But it is the first made of that by the artists of this area. As such it tells different stories of different lands and customs as well as artists sharing, often with warmth and humour as well as some sadness, the important even that shaped their lives.SUSAN McCULLOCH-UEHLIN, The Australian. October 4 2001
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WinnerSilver Chris Award Best Arts Program - Columbus Film Festival
FinalistInternational Electronic Cinema Festival Tokyo
InvitedHot Springs Documentary Film Festival
InvitedMelbourne International Film Festival
InvitedYork International Film Festival