Emu Runner: Literacy opens door to silver screen

Literacy for Life Foundation is proud to have played a role in a great new Australian film – our Yes, I Can! literacy campaign staff and students from the community of Brewarrina are some of the stars of Emu Runner.

University of New England researcher, Ruth Ratcliffe, attended the Australian premiere and passed on this report:

Last week I attended the Australian premiere of Emu Runner, a new film by Imogen Thomas and, as credited in the film’s opening, the remarkable community of Brewarrina. The film tells the story of nine-year old Gemma, whose world is torn apart when her mother suddenly dies. ‘My mum knew all about this country, the stars, the trees, everything’, Gemma tells the government social worker who monitors Gemma’s family in the aftermath of tragedy.

Gemma is played by Rhae-Kye Waites, granddaughter to Mary Waites (former Brewarrina Yes, I Can! coordinator), who also plays Gemma’s Nan in the film. Mary and Rhae-Kye star alongside a number of other Brewarrina locals, including two Literacy for Life graduates who have major roles – Letisha Boney, plays Valerie, Gemma’s elder sister and Sandra Murphy plays a school attendance officer. Two more graduates, Eva Boney and Clarence Gibbs have beautiful cameos.

After the screening Mary, Letisha, Rhae-Kye and other cast members joined the director Imogen Thomas and producer Victor Evatt at the front of the theatre for a Q and A session with the audience. Wayne Blair, who plays Gemma’s dad, told the audience that after he saw In My Own Words, he’d wanted to work with Mary and her mob and during filming Wayne visited the Yes, I Can classroom. Mary shone again as she spoke for the rights of people in Brewarrina and other small towns across the region, to dignity and self-determination.

The film masterfully captures so much of what those who’ve lived and worked in Brewarrina know – the grief, the beauty, the strength. At the after-party Mary told me that she sees the community’s ability to make the film as a flow-on effect of the literacy campaign.

There’s great photos at https://www.facebook.com/emurunnerfilm/

Ruth Ratcliffe

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