Gerard Veltre talks to David about Stories Beneath the Vale.

Community Events

Celebrated Australian arts company Phunktional Arts has gathered leading creatives from across the country to work with the diverse communities of rural Victorian township Robinvale, for an exciting and extraordinary film project called Stories Beneath the Vale.

The project is the realisation of the participation of Elders and youth in the Phunktional Arts programs over a four-year period.

Led by Phunktional’s Artistic Director Gerard Veltre; local area coordinators and a mix of local and nationally recognised artists facilitated workshops with the young people of the Murray River township.  It is their vision that has driven the development of the storyline, script, scenes and choreography of the work.

Currently being shot under strict Covid restrictions, the storyline spotlights the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island and First Nations Pacific Island youth.  Aged between 12 – 21 years, they have been supplied with equipment and are filming their own scenes with support of director, Oriel Guthrie and other creatives from Melbourne via live video chat.

Uncle Kutcha Edwards, proud Mutti Mutti man has recorded the film’s opening track, with Denise ScottStephen CurryNazeem Hussain and Steph Tisdell, also involved in the project.

Stories Beneath the Vale is the story of a young Aboriginal dancer and choreographer Annette, played by Emily Egan, finding power within her art and her relationships and speaking up when it matters.

“Community organisations, leaders and Elders in Robinvale had identified their young people as being at increased risk of social isolation, education and work disengagement and bullying both online and offline”, said Veltre.

The eSafety Commissioner has shown that some forms of online bullying increased up to 235% during COVID lockdown conditions.

“As we were about to embark on pilot filming, COVID-19 hit.  During this time of uncertainty, disruption and social restrictions, it was impossible to continue the project as originally planned, but the need for young people in rural Victoria to connect to culture and to experience creative health and wellbeing activities were more important than ever”.

Together with the project participants, narratives and scripts have been adapted to reflect the current challenging circumstances as well as the creative process with the Director, Choreographers, Sound Designer and other artists, connecting and collaborating online.

Gerard Veltre, an accomplished artist, dancer and an equal opportunities and Human Rights advocate for the most underprivileged and marginalised members of society, has gathered like-minded, critically celebrated creatives together to bring the work to screen.

Directing the work is award-winning documentary director, Oriel Guthrie, whose first feature film Skip Hop premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival and later screened at Adelaide Arts Festival, New York International Hip Hop Festival and ACMI.

Jon Bell, series creator and writer of ABC TV Australian television drama series Gods of Wheat Street has supported developing the story as a Script Consultant for the project whilst Robinvale local Phil Egan, who has recently returned from touring the UK with sold-out dance production Beats on Pointe and is the choreographer for multi-cultural Australian dance crew, Brothers in Arms is choreographing the work.

Laid out over 5 episodes, the miniseries is funny and fresh, with a booming soundtrack that features original, local music. The COVID-era production will focus on regional stories, told through innovative filming techniques, authentic dialogue and deadly dance scenes.

Stories Beneath the Vale pilot episode will premiere online in late September and it is hoped a further four episodes will be shot in the near future, once COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed and normal filming can recommence.