Critics are raving about Australian documentary Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra


“You can’t tell the story of Aboriginal Australia without Bangarra”.

A bold claim, but you’ll see why this line from the trailer for Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra is hard to argue with.

Directed by Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin, the Australian dance documentary is raking in acclaim from critics all over the country and the world. Here’s why you need to catch the Indigenous story at the forefront of a current boom in homegrown cinema.

Back in October, our own Travis Johnson gave Firestarter a glowing review after its release at the Adelaide Film Festival, describing the doco as a “triumph”; a “vital, none-more-timely film that speaks to Australia’s complicated past and present yet remains hopeful for the future”.

Elsewhere, Stephen Russell at Time Out gave it five stars, describing it as “a burning monument to hope”. Writing for Guardian Australia, Luke Buckmaster also awarded it full points, writing: “What an experience. What a joy. I’ve watched it twice, and on both occasions emerged deeply moved”.

Over at In Daily, Suzie Keen wrote: “the directors have created a powerful film that deserves to be seen by a wide audience”. At The Conversation, Brooke Collins-Gearing said “the film tells stories of creation, trauma, connection and hope”.

Besides showing off the company’s most visually stirring and celebrated performances, Firestarter also provides a family portrait of the three Page brothers who founded Bangarra. That’s Stephen (“the responsible one”), David (always with a “mischievous twinkle in his eye”) and Russell (“everything was about his body, his spirit”).

With Stephen the sole surviving brother at the company’s core, Bangarra still burns on as Australia’s most celebrated contemporary dance group. But don’t take my word for it; Firestarter is currently in theatres, and praise is pouring in from Aussie critics, cultural figures, and commenters.

Aussie films are currently having a hot streak at the box office, and it’s terrific to see such a deserving, critically-lauded documentary join in on the fun.