Laurence Billiet

2021 Winner


Judges' comments

A documentary of immense beauty and abiding inspiration, FREEMAN revisits the history of one of Indigenous Australia’s greatest moments. It provides fresh insight into Cathy Freeman’s famous 400-metre run at the Sydney Olympics because it includes the mature voice of Freeman herself, innovative re-enactment from the Bangarra Dance group and well-produced archival footage from Freeman’s Indigenous heritage — dating back to the early 20th century. 

Freeman’s achievement is explained as a personal triumph over structural disadvantage. It also appears as a moment of potential reconciliation in a nation still grappling to secure its heroes. The documentary is a celebration of Freeman, even while it manages to include many voices. The contribution of Bangarra to recreate Freeman’s athleticism, power and spirituality is outstanding. In addition, the film’s use of sound and graphics helps illuminate the history of both a moment and a lineage. 

FREEMAN is a model for how digital media can enhance historical understanding. Its sensitive combination of testimony, hindsight, analytic reflection, and contemporary representation conjures the past on multiple scales – the scale of the national and the scale of the individual; the scale of nearly 100 years and the scale of 49.11 seconds. This film is a stunning contribution to Olympic, Australian, and biographical history.  

Updated on 21 February 2024