Queensland’s Adele wins Sydney Film Festival award


Tony Moore

A Logan woman born in the Congo during the country’s horrific civil war in the mid-1990s has written and directed one of Australia’s best recent short films and is now in the long, long run for an Academy Award in 2018.

Mirene Igwabi made Adele as her graduate film at Brisbane’s SAE College at West End, based on her experiences in the Congo and her time at Brisbane’s Milpera school for refugees.

And when you realise that English is her fourth language, after Swahili, Luganda and her Congolese mother language Kissi – and that her film was about child brides living in Brisbane – you get some idea of how far Igwabi has come in her 25 short years.

Igwabi is an electrified fusion of fun, dedication, good humour and vision, who just might become an important part of Australia’s next wave of filmmakers.

Last Sunday, Adele, the 14-minute short film she made last year, was judged the best short film at the Sydney Film Festival.

Two weeks before this, Igwabi won best director and Adele won best short film at Melbourne’s St Kilda Film Festival.

The African actress she chose for the role of Adele, Princess Mariama Andres, also won best young actor at the St Kilda Film Festival.

Those wins mean Adele is in the big league of short films that can be nominated for an Academy Award.

Adele tells the story of a 14-year-old African child bride living in Brisbane who wraps her pregnant stomach each morning before she goes to school.

The man her school friends think is her father is actually her husband.

And Adele has few people to help her decide what to do with her baby.

Igwabi was in Sydney when Adele won the Dendy Award for best short film. That means Adele can be nominated for an Academy Award.

As she and producer Grace Julia sat waiting to hear Adele’s fate they did not think the film stood a chance of winning.

“They announced the nominees and then they said the winner, Adele, and we were just screaming,” Igwabi says, with a huge smile across her face.

“And my producer (Julia) had fallen on the floor and I was trying to pick her up to get on to the stage.”

The pair accepted the award and Igwabi – who strives to inform Australians that forced child marriages are now very much an Australian issue – breaks into uncontrolled laughter as she says she simply couldn’t remember her speech.

“At that moment you feel like it is just you two in the room,” she says.

“I’m trying to lift her up and we got to the stage and all we could say was ‘Oh my God’, ‘Oh my God’, ‘Oh my God’.

“And then I gave a speech, but I don’t remember. It was just crazy. I just didn’t know how to process anything.”

“I was probably the most amazing thing I have ever experienced in my whole entire life.”

Two days later she found out her production company can enter Adele in the Academy Awards.

“But we can now submit our film. You cannot just submit your film. But now, we are eligible.”

She is now working with the help of Screen Queensland to get the shot sequence ready for her first feature-length production, again on an African issue: child soldiers.

“In 12 months time I want to be working – in a production role – ony my feature film. That’s my goal,” she says.

But she is still astounded with the success of Adele.

“I just wanted to let people know that child marriages existed in Australia, as well as around the world,” Igwabi says.

“And the fact that I was able to tell the story and then actually film it, for me that was enough.

“I never ever believed it would be received so well.”

Laughing, she says she is back to the beginning.

“Now I am back in my dark room, writing. It’s really back to square one.”

But she says life in Logan’s “hood” really inspires her.

“It motivates me to work hard,” she laughs.

“Because I don’t want to live here for the rest of my life. And I’m sure if I moved into the city I would be lazier.”



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