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2021 - Winner
FREEMAN is a hybrid documentary about Indigenous Australian athlete Cathy Freeman’s gold medal performance in the 400 metre final at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Intercutting Freeman’s trajectory from child prodigy to track and field superstar with the global attention focused on her in the build-up to the event, the script uses Freeman’s race to speak about Race. It deftly juxtaposes her observations, and the conflicted relationship between Australia and its First Nations People, to provoke deeper questions about culture, politics and power.
Billiet’s screenplay is innovative and compelling, blending interviews, archival footage, dramatised reconstruction and stylised sequences to capture the excitement, tension and meteoric stakes in play as the young athlete prepared to run the race of her life. Freeman’s authentic, poetic voice adds beauty and profundity to what, in less skilful hands, might have remained a mere sports story. Instead, Freeman’s nation-stopping performance becomes a powerful and inspiring symbol of Indigenous excellence, self-determination and spiritual resilience.
FREEMAN scaffolds its political themes within an entertaining and structurally suspenseful narrative arc, achieving that rare thing in scriptwriting: complete visual and emotional engagement. Billiet, in collaboration with her insightful protagonist, has delivered a dazzling, unique and universally resonant tale.