Terrigal-based filmmaker Jason van Genderen has been announced as one of two finalists of the Sundance Nokia Music competition.

As a result, his short film Red Earth Hip Hop will premiere at Sundance London, held from the 25-28 April at Cineworld at the O2.

Van Genderen first heard about the competition, which calls for the submission of a 60-second trailer capturing an underground music story, via social media.

“Someone sent me a link for this trailer competition and I thought, ‘What a fantastic way to test the content,’” he says. “Then later I was talking with friends and someone mentioned how an indigenous hip hop scene starting to grow and mature.”

A meeting with a Triple J producer put van Genderen in contact with Melbourne based Hip Hop artist Morganics and the idea for Red Earth Hip Hop was born. 

The film – which van Genderen is currently in the midst of editing – tells the story of indigenous hip hop and how it is paving the way for Aboriginal youth to reconnect with their culture and traditional languages. 

Though van Genderen says he is passionate and proud of the subject, he says he was still surprised his trailer was chosen. 

“I was genuinely stunned to be selected, there were hundreds of brilliant entries submitted,” says Van Genderen. “I think there were 280 in total. When I went through and started watching the other entries, my hope sank, there were so many high calibre concepts there. I am genuinely stunned that we got in.” 

Along with a return trip to Sundance London to see his film premiere, van Genderen’s prize included two Nokia 920 smartphones and $5000 with which to complete his film.

The filmmaker then had just over a week to shoot and edit the project.

“It was a whirlwind… we had no time to plan things. We just scrambled and got it together,” he says.

The film was shot in four days in Lockhart River, Queensland, and looks at how hip hop is impacting indigenous youth in the community. 

“(The film is about) how hip hop is giving today’s Aboriginal youth a way to reconnect with what their story-telling elders passed on, only through a new tool,” he says. “It’s also preserving local language which has been a struggle for decades. Now kids are wanting to learn the language because they want to rap it. It’s coming full circle.” 

Van Genderen is quick to point out the differences between indigenous hip hop and the US variety. 

“American hip hop is seated in the Bronx, it’s the language of struggle from the streets,” he says. “It’s all bling and bitches and hoes and crime and that sort of stuff. 

“Indigenous hip hop also addresses problematic issues in the community such as isolation but it’s very culturally rich and very empowering.” 

Currently in the editing process (the final version of the film is due tomorrow) van Genderen says he hopes the final film will run around the five minute mark. 

Of the two finalists, an overall winner will be announced. 

“I hope I’ll bring home a gong, but really I think I’ve already won by just being there,” he says. 

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