Cinema Australia Podcast #80 | Tiriki Onus & Alec Morgan

Cinema Australia Original Content:

Tiriki Onus.

Tiriki Onus and Alec Morgan join the Cinema Australia Podcast to discuss their new documentary, Ablaze.

Ablaze tells the story of the first Aboriginal filmmaker William ‘Bill’ Onus, a Yorta Yorta and Wiradjuri man from Victoria, a truly heroic cultural and political figure who revived his peopleʼs culture in the 1940s and ignited a civil rights movement that would, against enormous odds, change the course of history.

Through rare archival footage, state-of-the-art animation, vividly created digital motion graphics and eyewitness accounts, Ablaze is the compelling tale – part detective story, part contemporary opera – of how Bill and supporters brilliantly orchestrated their campaign for equality through performance, entertainment, film and sheer audacity outsmarted mighty forces seeking to destroy Indigenous cultures, languages, and communities.


About Tiriki Onus

Tiriki is an opera singer, playwright, educator, and filmmaker.

He picked-up filmmaking skills by assisting on the production of, and appearing in, a number of documentaries including Lin Onus: Bridge Between Cultures, Moomba: What’s in a name? and Kwaya’s Uganda Music Project. He also worked with awardwinning Indigenous filmmaker Richard Frankland on Yinga-Bul: Stories of a Song Man.

He wrote and acted in the critically acclaimed musical drama, William and Mary, about the love affair between his grandparents, William and Mary Onus. He also studied to be an opera singer.

For Deborah Cheetham’s Indigenous opera, Pecan Summer, he created the character of ‘Uncle Bill’ based on his grandfather and played that role. He has also appeared in theatre works Der Vampyr and The Tenderland. Tiriki’s directing debut on the feature documentary Ablaze, announces a career move from theatre to film on a subject close to his heart – the astonishing true story of his charismatic grandfather, the first Indigenous filmmaker William ‘Bill’ Onus.

Tiriki Onus.

About Alec Morgan

Alec Morgan is a multi-award-winning filmmaker with productions that have screened at over 50 film festivals, in cinemas and on television in many countries.

His documentary credits include the landmark production Lousy Little Sixpence, that first exposed the story of the Stolen Generations and AdmissionImpossible that exposed the secret history of the White Australia Policy.

His innovative hybrid feature Hunt Angels won 8 awards including 3 AACTA Awards and the prestigious Joan Long Award for contribution to Australian film history. He recently wrote and directed episodes of the ground-breaking factual series Australia In Colour, one of SBS’s highest rating productions.

He collaborated with Tiriki Onus to make his latest production the feature documentary Ablaze.

Alec Morgan

Here, Tiriki gives us a fascinating insight into his connection to his Grandfather Bill and his journey to get this film made alongside his collaborator, Alec. You will hear throughout this interview how passionate Alec is about this story, as well as revealing the truth about Australia’s indigenous history. Alec is certainly one of the most passionate filmmakers I’ve ever interviewed. 

Ablaze is in cinemas now, and it certainly shouldn’t be missed. 

Anyway… enjoy. 



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