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27 min. Aboriginal English, English.

In the not so distant future, Europeans will no longer be able to survive for long periods outdoors in a land and seascape poisoned by capitalism, but Indigenous people seem able to. A young Indigenous man, Aiden, taken away when he was just a baby to be a part of a medical experiment to “save the white ‘race’”, is released into the world of his family. As he travels with his father and brother across the landscape he confronts two possible futures and pasts.
The Mermaids, or Aiden in Wonderland is a powerful intervention in contemporary debates about the future present of climate change, extractive capitalism, and industrial toxicity from the point of view of Indigenous worlds.

Karrabing Film Collective (est. 2008) is an award-winning group of some thirty filmmakers and artists who use their aesthetic practices as a means of self-organization and social analysis. Most Karrabing are Indigenous and live in a rural community in northwestern Australia. In the Emiyengal Indigenous language Karrabing means ‘tide out’. It refers to a time of coming together, as well as to the coastline that connects the Karrabing Film Collective as an extended family group across social lines. Their films and installations have been shown in biennials, film festivals, and exhibitions worldwide.

Working Together

The Karrabing Film Collective is comprised at its root of thirty-odd members of extended family members who came together during a crisis in 2010 to begin a process of self-representation and social analysis of contemporary settler colonialism. Thus the style of collectivity has evolved reflects the conditions of the collective. All of the members are Indigenous except Elizabeth Povinelli, who has been living and working with the Karrabing and their parents and grandparents since 1984. The Indigenous members for the most part live below the poverty line thus always managing daily crises of settler racism and poverty.
The Collective’s film production costs are understood within this structure, Povinelli assuming the costs of any funding not explicitly mandated by fund or granting agencies. Stories emerge from one or several members. Someone has an idea and then others add subplots or thematics. Discussions happen in set meetings but also informally, say when a group is taking a break from hunting or on a long drive back from the city or an outstation. Scenes can be “discovered” during other activities, such as when a young member Kieran Sing saw a large bushfire as a found scene for MERMAIDS. Members chose which roles they wish to play, or chose to let others decide for them. The cinematography is done on iPhones and with multiple members typically taking on the filming task – often dependent on who is on scene. The same is true of onsite recording. Because the task of managing life within the constant severe stresses of settler colonialism makes the task of meta-organization difficult, Povinelli is assigned the “director role.” But unlike industry models, directing here refers to the task of consolidating group decisions and desires.

Karrabing Film Collective

Production Karrabing Film Collective. Production company Karrabing Indigneous Corporation (Darwin, Australia). Written and directed by Karrabing Film Collective. Editing Elizabeth A. Povinelli. Sound design Thomas Bartlett. With Aiden Sing (Aiden), Trevor Bianamu (Trevor), Gavin Bianamu (Gavin), Kieran Sing (Kieran), Sandra Yarrowin (Mermaid).


2012: Karrabing, Low Tide Turning (14 min.). 2014: When the Dogs Talked (34 min.). 2015: Windjarrameru: The Stealing C*nts (36 min.). 2016: Wutharr, Saltwater Dreams (29 min., Forum Expanded 2017). 2017: SeenUnseen Trilogy (video installation, 4 min.), Night Time Go (31 min.), The Jealous One (29 min.). 2018: They Ben Jealous (video installatoin, 19 min.), Mermaids, Mirror Worlds (35 min.), The Mermaids, or Aiden in Wonderland.

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur