Birlabirri is a short film featuring three sisters removed from their families as children who return to their ancestral homes. As part of an International Women’s Day collaboration and initiative, Gravity Global has partnered with female Film Director Sonal Kantaria to bring this real-life captivating story set in the Murchison landscape of Western Australia to life.
Sonal’s film style is honest and open. It is the story that matters and real and authentic nature of the characters that tell the story. Birlabirri lets the camera roll to capture the real depth of the female human spirit and the connection with the landscape they call home.
Birlabirri (2021) was filmed in the Murchison on Yamaji country, Western Australia and rose as a collaboration between Elders Elvie, Myra and Mavis Dann and Sonal Kantaria about a return to their ancestral homes. The three sisters, who were removed from their families as children, were accompanied on the trip by members from generations of their descendents, to recount their time at the homestead and connection with country. The short film is presented in a three-field format, bringing each of the sisters into the foreground in turn, interleaving their stories with footage of the Murchison region in Western Australia, where the homestead is located. The narrative offered by the sisters flows between each of the other’s accounts, weaving stories traditional to their upbringing, their time at the Moore River Native Settlement Mission, early working lives in Perth as well as truths about colonial oppression, policies and practices of segregation and curfews the shaped the Stolen Generation, into the resilience of three ‘very beautiful people’ — and their old people (ancestors) — speaking to us all throughout the film. The film and photography works feature the Murchison landscape – itself as a character as prominently as the Elders – and feminine force.
Getting to know Sonal
Sonal Kantaria is a visual artist and film director based in London and holds a Masters in Photojournalism from the University of Westminster, UK and has just completed a PhD in Film Studies at King’s College London.
Her work has been exhibited extensively both in the UK and internationally. Her film After the crow flies (2016) was screened at the Ikon Gallery (2018) and at the Whitechapel Gallery (2017) and selected for Aesthetica Film Festival (2016). Her film and photographic project Naseeb: Trafficked was shown as a solo exhibition both at the Perth Centre for Photography (2013) and by at Next Level Projects in London and presented by Autograph ABP (2012). The work was also selected and exhibited by the Photographers Gallery London for FreshFacedandWildEyed11. In 2011 she was the finalist in the Julia Cameron Awards and a nominee for Magenta Flash Forward 2012.
Sonal has completed an artist residency at the Perth Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) (2015), Perth Centre for Photography in Australia (2013) and an artist residency with the City of Greater Geraldton in Western Australia (2014). She was invited by Curtin University in Western Australia as a visiting academic to facilitate and run a refugee settlement project; teaching photography and enabling community photographic projects with groups of young refugees. She was also commissioned as a community artist by DADAA to devise and teach a number of photography workshops to Aboriginal teenagers.
She has worked as a visiting lecturer at the London College of Communication and the University of Westminster, London, UK, the University of Hertfordshire and as a visiting academic at Curtin University in Western Australia.
Notably, the Wesfarmers Art Collection, Australia has recently acquired films by Sonal for their cultural importance.