Steve Martin backs Indigenous Australian film Honey Ant Dreamers

Actor and comedian Steve Martin has joined the upcoming film as executive producer.

US Actor and comedian, Steve Martin (Only Murders in the BuildingFather of the Bride), has boarded the Australian screen production of Honey Ant Dreamers as an executive producer. The film will portray the story behind the birth of the Western Desert Art Movement told for the first time, through a First Nations’ lens.

Honey Ant Dreamers is a new feature film which tells the extraordinary story of the birth of the Western Desert Art Movement in Central Australia. The production has been backed by the Northern Territory Government through the Screen Territory Production Attraction Incentive Program, to be filmed entirely in the Northern Territory next year. 

Martin has long been a passionate collector of Indigenous art, particularly from Australia’s Western Desert region. He described himself as a ‘cheerleader and kibitzer’ for Honey Ant Dreamers, and has also been actively engaged in script development.

‘I am honoured to be a part of this exciting and valuable project. It presents a little known yet powerful story to a waiting world,’ Martin said.

Honey Ant Dreamers is the feature directorial debut of co-writers, Pitjantjara, Luritja and Warlpiri woman Anyupa Emily Napangarti Butcher, and Michael Cordell, best known as a prolific producer through his company CJZ, and for whom this film has been a decade-long passion project. 

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Honey Ant Dreamers

In the Western Desert outpost of Papunya, tribal groups fought to preserve their law, culture and identity by painting that which was most precious to them, their Tjukurrpa (Tjukurrpa refers to origins and powers embodied in country, places, objects, songs and stories).

These sacred stories once painted on their bodies and in the sand, migrated to boards and canvas. At the centre of this revolutionary act was an extraordinary entrepreneur, traditional elder Kaapa Tjampitjinpa. The film follows his story.

‘This story is both ancient and current,’ said filmmaker Anyupa Butcher ‘Local and global. Our art started in the sand, the rocks, the very formation of Australia. Contemporary Western Desert art was pioneered because of the innovative, radical, and entrepreneurial thinking of the Painting Men in Papunya who wanted to keep their culture alive in the era of assimilation. These painters had a vision of maintaining cultural laws while sharing our unique cultures of Papunya to the world.’

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‘The birth of the Western Desert art movement is a triumphant and universal survival story,’ Michael Cordell said. ‘No other story I know better celebrates the extraordinary depth, richness and heritage of the world’s longest surviving culture. It is also a conciliation story about black and white Australia coming together. As such Honey Ant Dreamers is a profoundly optimistic story.’

Award winning Producer Maggie Miles, known for her work on High Ground and Paper Planes will produce the film through her company Savage Films NT, working in collaboration with CJZ and the community representatives involved in this story. 

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Honey Ant Dreamers will be distributed in Australia and New Zealand by theatrical company Icon.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports