Kate Bonner and Natasha Wanganeen in ‘Waiyiri.’
After playing characters who were in chains or oppressed earlier in her career, Natasha Wanganeen is relishing the chance to portray a wide diversity of roles.
Demonstrating her versatility, the Ngarrindjeri, Narungga, Kaurna and Noongar woman plays Indigenous bushranger Mary Ann Bugg in Network 10’s upcoming Drunk History Australia; a chef in Closer Productions/ABC comedy Aftertaste; and a government official in Seth Larney’s 2067.
“What I would love to do now is take all the strength from action movies, fantasy and sci-fi and put that into our style,” the Black Lives Matter activist tells IF. “We are some of the strongest people on Earth.
“I want our kids to wake up and see us doing powerful things instead of seeing the mainstream media put out news about another death in custody or Indigenous people as alcoholics or facing drug issues. A lot of things subliminally teach our kids that that is their place, when it’s not.”
At next month’s Adelaide Film Festival she will serve on the jury with playwright/screenwriter Andrew Bovell, director, producer and screenwriter Khao Do, film critic Zak Hepburn and producer Rebecca Summerton.
Directors Kiara Milera and Charlotte Rose short film Waiyirri written by Kate Bonney will premiere at the festival. The drama stars Bonney as Mary, a pregnant Christian missionary who moves to Australia with her husband Albert. After he leaves her to go preaching and she loses the baby, she meets a young Indigenous woman (Wanganeen) who helps her through the ordeal.
Tash’s 10-year-old daughter Tjarrah Henstridge-Wanganeen make her debut in the short playing her daughter.
One of the creatives based at the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC), Wanganeen and Lee-Ann Tjunypa Buckskin, now the SAFC’s First Nations strategy executive, were instrumental in setting up Pirrku Kuu (The Story Room) at Adelaide Studios in Glenside as a hub for emerging Indigenous writers.
She did a residency there for a year, working on her script Battle of the Ancestors, a feature set 60,000 years ago, supported by Screen Australia and the SAFC.
Inspired by Dreamtime stories she grew up with and those from other communities around the country, the narrative follows twin girls as they encounter frogs, owls, cockatoos and other creatures that can transform into human forms.
Keen to make her directing debut on the film, ideally she would co-direct with an experienced filmmaker. She has sent a letter of interest to Taika Waititi, who is the top of her wish list.
When the time comes to assemble the crew, she is determined to ensure at least 50 per cent are Indigenous, including some who have not had the chance to work on features.
‘Bunker: The Last Fleet’ short.
That project is on hold while she focusses on Bunker: The Last Fleet, a feature spin-off from a short film of the same title in which she starred, produced, written and directed by Stephen Potter and Rowan Pullen.
The producers are in talks with Monster Pictures’ Grant Hardie and Pictures in Paradise’s Chris Brown’s new genre film investment and production company Monsters in Paradise on the project, which will star Tash as an Aboriginal warrior who survives an apocalyptic Australia 37 years in the future, when aliens harvest human organs.
Decked out in steampunk armour, her character Tjarra traverses the vast outback while cyber hacker Reo (Roy Phung) guides her via a headset from inside an abandoned military bunker.
When she was 15 she made her acting debut in Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit Proof Fence as dormitory boss Nina. Along with about 150 other kids, she went to the audition accompanied by a friend who ran a youth theatre workshop not knowing what it was for or who Noyce was.
She won the part after play acting a scene in which she was asked to make a man who appeared to be asleep on a chair get up. That man was Noyce.
Several years later, worried about the lack of acting jobs, she asked the director if she should go to drama school. He replied: “Don’t you dare. If you go to acting school you will come out like everybody else. You don’t need it because you have a natural instinct and know what you’re doing.”
Apart from numerous stage plays, among her screen credits are the telemovie Jessica, the miniseries Through My Eyes and Redfern Now, the movies Storm Boy and Cargo and the horror anthology Dark Place.
In her cousin director Thibul Nettle’s horror/thriller Fate of the Night, she plays the boss of Marlee Wilson’s Samantha, who with her husband Sean (Mark Healy) witnesses a wolf maul a young couple.