Virtual reality film Carriberrie, from director Dominic Allen and cinematographer Josh Flavell, is a face-to-face experience with our threatened Indigenous culturesby Slade Phillips


Beginning at the heart of Australia, actor and performer David Gulpilil AM guides us on a journey through time and space. We move from traditional ceremonial dance and song, towards intrinsically contemporary and modern expressions. From iconic ceremonial traditional dance at Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park, to rainforests and funeral songs in the desert. From the most Northern tip of Australia to Sydney’s iconic Opera House with the Bangarra Dance Theatre, Carriberrie showcases a stunning range of Australian locations and performances.

Virtual reality, or VR, technology is making it far easier to connect with remote Indigenous Australians. Carriberrie, a mesmerising 360-degree VR, live-action documentary, illustrates how well immersive technology can transcend cultural boundaries. 

Viewing the twelve-minute film, the audience is teleported. Against the backdrop of a pre-dusk sky, the viewer stands among the Anangu women, the traditional owners of Uluru. They stamp their feet into the red dusty earth. “Dance”, Gulpilil says, “is the first language of our people.

Josh Flavell is a freelance cinematographer based in Sydney. The 360-degree aerial footage in Carriberrie, which allows you to look around as you ‘fly over’ the terrain, is one of the film’s standout innovations. The technical expertise to pull all this off is almost invisible. However, working in VR is incredibly complex for creators. Allen and Flavell used a consumer drone fitted with two cameras to create the 360-degree aerial footage. The shots were then patched together during the edit stage. Other scenes were shot with a Jaunt One VR camera which gives the experience a live, photo-realistic quality.

Carriberrie uses the latest immersive technology to invite the audience into a much-needed dialogue about the threatened culture of our nation’s first peoples. “If their practices are not preserved and passed on to the next generation, if they are not encouraged by all Australians, they could all too quickly be lost,” writes Kate Gwynne, a PhD Candidate in ‘Interactive Storytelling’ at the University of New South Wales. With VR headset adoption yet to become mainstream, museums and cultural spaces will be vital for these important projects to reach wide audiences.

Immersive films like this should also be used in educational settings such as classrooms,“ says Gwynne. “We learn through experience. Virtual reality can be a proxy for the real thing. It can give students exposure to Australian Indigenous culture when excursions are unfeasible. Geographical and language divides are no longer an excuse for ignorance.

The Byron Bay Film Festival once again presented an Australian contingent of 360° VR works at last month’s Cannes’ Next, the innovation hub of the film festival’s market, Marché du Film. Among those works screened was Carriberrie.


Josh Flavell is a graduate of the Australian Film Television & Radio School (AFTRS). His experience encompasses a wide range of narrative, commercial, and documentary projects.

Slade Phillips is a writer based in Sydney.

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2 comments

  1. My name is Dominic Allen and I write in regards to the above article you guys published about the film Carriberrie.

    While I am most grateful you guys wrote this article, I am upset that you have mis-attributed a quote about me, and a quote which contains language I find patronising and offensive.

    In your article you quote me, Dominic Allen, as saying ““If their practices are not preserved and passed on to the next generation, if they are not encouraged by all Australians, they could all too quickly be lost.”

    I would like to point out that I never said this. I do not believe this to be the case and this comment is not in line with the films’ ethos or my personal respect for Indigenous Australia’s robust, strong and thriving culture.

    I, like the others on the film crew, have a deep respect for the Indigenous dancers with whom we worked from whom we took leadership and we believe very deeply that the incredible culture to which are they custodians is thriving and will continue to thrive under it’s own patronage and practices. First Nations Australian culture is strong, proud and alive. I do not believe it is the task of white Australians to “save” Indigenous culture as this comment could be read to imply – I think we would do well to listen 🙂

    Please delete this comment and thank you again for your magazines support of Carriberrie.

    Sincerely,

    Dominic Allen

    1. Hi Dominic, the quote was simply mis-attributed and has now been corrected. Please accept our apologies.

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