Interview: Producer Marla Gamze to Present ‘Artists of the First Sunrise’ in Chicago on Nov. 14, 2015

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CHICAGO – The traditions and ceremony of our tribal past have eventually become homogenized in modern society. But there are some parts of the world where those traditions still exist, and much of it has a connection to art, dance, design, music and ritual. Executive Producer Marla Gamze is working on a new documentary – “Artists of the First Sunrise” – about the indigenous Aboriginal tribes of Australia, a native population that still bond to their tradition and expression.

Marla Gamze will be moderating an event on November 14th, 2014, at the Gene Siskel Film Center – part of Chicago Artists Month – which will present the short film preview of her documentary, a panel discussion on topics associated with the film and an art exhibit highlighting Australia’s indigenous traditions. The event is free and open to the public of all ages. To RSVP – which includes free popcorn – click here.

Artists of the First Sunrise
Production Still from ‘Artists of the First Sunrise’
Photo credit: © Wayne Quilliam (

In anticipation of the event, Marla Gamze talked to So this event will include art exhibits and a panel discussion. What are the specifics of the panel, and how does it tie into the themes of Chicago Artists Month?

Marla Gamze: It’s about getting community conversation started. The foundation of the discussion is the ‘Artists of the New Sunrise’ film and website, and the human rights infringement of the indigenous Australians, but the conversation at the event will also talk about human rights in general, and how we can educate through the arts.

The finer thread is tying this into what the Chicago Artists Month scene is about, which involves the whole community. Even though, for example, the indigenous people of Australian have had human rights infractions against them for over 250 years, they still express their healing, emotions and history through art, music and culture. This mirrors what is going on in Chicago, how bucket drummers on the street and poetry slams express history and emotions through the same type of artistic expressions. What is the origin of your involvement with the ‘Artists of the First Sunrise’ project? What first fueled your passion?

Gamze: About eight years ago I took a trip around the world with my family, and I got the opportunity to stay in Australia for three months. During this time, I met an indigenous native named Ruby Neal, who told me about the plight of her family and the indigenous population of Australia. It struck me to the core, and I knew this story had to be told. Since then I’ve been back to Australia four times, and every time I’ve met more people through Ruby, and all of them are an artist in some way.

Marla Gamze
Marla Gamze for ‘Artists of the First Sunrise’
Photo credit:

They talk about their reverence for their sacred land, their ceremony, and their tradition of oneness with nature. The stories are extraordinary, and it’s all about healing – there is much devastation and human rights infractions they have to work through – and they want their stories to get to the next generation. Elders are dying off, and if those stories and sacred traditions are not passed along, the culture will not carry on. One of the interview subjects in your preview film talks about the traditions and ceremony that we all have in our ethnic backgrounds, but have since left behind. In the context of your film, how important is it to preserve a sense of heritage through tradition and arts?

Gamze: It’s absolutely imperative. Especially with histories that in the case of the film go back thousands of years, or in the case of our families hundreds of years. It’s all about passing the lore down from generation to generation, and a responsibility from those who understand it to pass it down to the next generations. One of the great quotes in your short film is “reclamation is part of education.” What is the goal of what you want to reclaim through your documentary?

Gamze: Part of the reason I’m making this film is to get the Australian indigenous people to tell their stories, to give them a platform. For me personally, it would be helping to give cultural meaning to these people, to help them preserve these tradition and stories. For the people themselves, it goes deeper. There is an anger, and it’s about reclaiming land rights, heritage and their very identity. Eventually, what do you want your documentary to accomplish?

Gamze: I want it to reach out to an audience, to have them see lives through the eyes of another. If we can transform their perspective or create a platform for social change, or even provide an impetus for community conversation, that would be tremendous.

”Artists of the First Sunrise” Screening, Panel Discussion and Art Exhibit will take place on November 14th, 2015, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 North Sate Street, Chicago, from 11am to 2pm. The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP (which includes FREE popcorn), click here. For more information about “Artists of the First Sunrise,” click here. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2015 Patrick McDonald,

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