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Immersive planetarium film retells Australia's rich history, connecting viewers to ancestral tales

Joseph Guenzler -

The World Science Festival Brisbane 2024 is set to feature the premiere of "The Earth Above: A Deep Time View of Australia's Epic History," a full-dome experience delving into Australia's rich Indigenous past spanning 140,000 years.

This unique presentation seamlessly combines Indigenous and scientific knowledge in a visually captivating planetarium-style show.

Taking the audience on an immersive journey, the 30-minute film transports viewers to four distinct locations across the country: Girraween Lagoon on Larrakia and Wulna Country outside Darwin in the NT; Cloggs Cave on GunaiKurnai Country in Victoria's East Gippsland region; Lake Mungo in NSW on the land of the Barkandji/Paakantyi, Ngiyampaa and Mutthi Mutthi people; and Jiigurru (Lizard Island) on the Great Barrier Reef.

The immersive nature of the film is intentional, designed to shift the traditional flat-screen perspective.

The focus is on guiding the audience through the landscape, fostering connections to ancestors, and revealing the diverse and captivating stories woven throughout Australia.

Creative Producer Martin Potter is pleased with the films final product and enjoyed his experience working with traditional owners.

"It's been amazing to see it come together," he said.

"It's the connection of indigenous knowledge systems and emerging archaeology that I think is quite an exciting part of this of this story."

In every location featured, collaboration with Elders, Traditional Owners, knowledge holders, and artists from respective nations has been integral.

Together, they co-authored the scripts, determined visual elements within the constraints of animation and budget.

Additionally, Traditional Owners took charge of writing and delivering the voice-over for the film.

"We had some stuff where we've actually reanimated some of the ancestors and some of the things that are being talked about," Mr Potter said.

"For example, Lake Mungo, they found these fossilized footprints that were dated to 20,000 years old and they were preserved in the mud as the lakes dried up.

"It's been a really collaborative experience with lots of different voices, lots of different language as well, which has been really amazing."

Screen Capture of the Jigurru Story. (Image: Epic Austalia)

A portable dome was acquired for showcasing the completed project, primarily in Melbourne due to technological requirements.

However, the team's commitment to prioritising the connection to the land led them to exhibit it back on country first.

The portable dome facilitated viewing around to 10-15,000 people so far in various locations, including Darwin, Brisbane, Mildura, and the Lake Mungo area, receiving a positive response.

"So it's been really cool to see young people coming out and get a new understanding and a bit of education," Mr Potter said.

"I think a lot of people were in need of a bit of hope last year so I think this is a really hopeful antidote."

Screening premieres on March 15th at Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, situated within the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha, with more viewing sessions availble.

Ticket prices commence at $20 for concession and $25 for adults.

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