Actor and musician Tom E. Lewis, whose life is the focus of the short documentary Yellow Fella, was tonight awarded the $10,000 Bob Maza Fellowship for 2005 by the Australian Film Commission (AFC).
Sally Riley, Manager of the AFC's Indigenous Branch, announced the award during the opening of the Message Sticks Film Festival at the Sydney Opera House.
Lewis began his performance career in 1977 when he played the lead in Fred Schepisi's The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith. His film and television credits include roles in We of the Never Never and A Town Like Alice, as well as theatre roles for Playbox, MTC, Melbourne Workers Theatre, Arena, and Handspan with whom he devised the internationally successful Lift Em Up Socks, a semi-autobiographical multi-media work. He is also a musician, most well known for his didjeridu in the internationally acclaimed jazz duo Lewis & Young.
Lewis co-wrote the short documentary Yellow Fella (directed by Ivan Sen) about his life. The film was selected to screen at the Cannes Film Festival this year, the first Australian Indigenous documentary ever chosen for Official Selection.
Unable to attend the ceremony, Lewis told the AFC, "It's an honour to be selected for the Bob Maza Fellowship and to receive this kind of recognition from my colleagues." "My aim with the work that I do is to make medicine and good stories for people - like a Corroboree ground but in the modern world, using what is culturally ours but in a way that Bob Maza pioneered," he said.
The Fellowship is sponsored by the Australian Film Commission to commemorate and celebrate the life and work of Bob Maza (1939-2000), the first Indigenous AFC Commissioner, an actor and activist, and a lifelong theatre and film advocate and mentor.
"We pay tribute to Bob's passion and commitment to the film and entertainment industry through this fellowship and we know Tom will be a very worthy recipient," Ms Riley said.
The Bob Maza Fellowship is awarded to further professional development, career opportunities and to support activities that will raise the recipient's profile internationally.
The inaugural Bob Maza Fellowship was awarded last year to theatre actor Ursula Yovich.
Also presented in the opening night ceremony was the Tudawali Award, which went to Dot West for her contribution to Indigenous media. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders Studies (AIATSIS), sponsor of the prestigious award, presented the $7,000 prize money.
Dot is the Head of Production and Business Development and Director of Goolari Media and has sat on the Board of ScreenWest since 2003. Since 1975 she has played a major role in the training and development of broadcasting in the Kimberley region and in the development of Indigenous media across all streams nationally.
The Tudawali Award is named after Robert Tudawali (1930-1967), the world's first Aboriginal film star, who featured in Jedda. It is awarded to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the development of Indigenous media or the creation of a landmark body of work in film and television.
Previous recipients who have also been judges this year include Freda Glynn, Lester Bostock and Justine Saunders.
High-resolution photos of the award winners will be available on request.