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Home to Tiwi: Miranda Tapsell’s new movie pulls at the heartstrings

Top End Wedding IGA.jpg

A bride is in traditional Tiwi wedding dress, of bright blue and lime green and is smiling towards the camera. She is outside on a sunny day and there are 3 bridesmaids in blue dresses in the background.
Miranda Tapsell is a Tiwi bride in the new movie Top End Wedding. Image supplied by Screen Australia
15 Apr 2019

As a little girl growing up in Darwin, Miranda Tapsell knew she wanted to be an actor.

She grew up with her mother’s people among the lush rainforests, waterfalls and beaches of the Northern Territory, with much of her time spent in Kakadu.

In her new movie - Top End Wedding – she shows the rest of the world the home she loves.

The film received principal production investment from Screen Australia, which is a Federal Government agency. Miranda co-wrote the film, helped produce it, and starred in it.

‘If there’s 1 thing I’ve learned in my decade of being a professional actor it’s that there is no secret, no code to being a successful actor,’ she told the Indigenous.gov.au team.

‘I was just a girl who grew up in Kakadu who wanted nothing more than to be an actor. Aaron Pedersen (an Indigenous actor) came to my school and he had just finished a season of Water Rats so I knew who he was. And by the time I was 13 I was very aware of Aboriginal actors doing well. Deb Mailman was a rising star and I thought ‘if they can do it so can I’.’  

 

There are 9 men and women facing the camera. They all smiling and some are laughing. They are dressed for a wedding. A bride and groom are cutting a wedding cake.
Image supplied by Screen Australia

In Top End Wedding, Miranda shares the screen with a large cast of Indigenous and non-Indigenous actors.

‘I’m constantly surrounded by wonderful Aboriginal people in Darwin and I really wanted to show that in Top End Wedding – that this is what my life it like,’ she said.

The film is a romantic comedy about a bride searching for her mother who has unexpectedly gone missing.

Miranda embarks on a hilarious journey of wedding planning, while taking the audience to some of the most breathtaking parts of the NT.

It is essentially a story about family and the need to reunite with older generations, as Miranda’s character discovers her mother has gone on her own journey of healing.

Miranda has injected a lot of Aboriginal humour into the story, which resonates strongly with a wide range of audiences. The film was screened in the US at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and has been released in Australia in time for Mother’s Day.  

‘I was very particular about the story I wanted to tell,’ Miranda said.

‘I wanted to have a lot of people around me to make sure I was on the right track and we were constantly checking in every day and not just taking an attitude of: ‘right we’ve written it and we’ll shoot it and everything is in place’. There was always the question in my mind of ‘how does this speak to mob?’ And ‘is this the way they want to be represented?’ It is a never ending discussion’.

‘It’s something that all Indigenous and non-Indigenous creative people should be doing. I want our society to get to a place where Aboriginal stories are just a normal part of the mainstream entertainment. I don’t want anybody to think of it as ‘niche’.’  

Miranda has described the film as her ‘love letter’ to the Tiwi Islands but said the movie was not autobiographical.

‘I have a really close relationship with my mum,’ she said.

‘It’s not biographical. I have family on the Tiwi Islands, Kakadu and Darwin. I grew up with my mother’s people and it’s really influenced my life. It has shaped who I am.’

Miranda’s acting career has required her to spend much of the past 10 years in Melbourne and Sydney for filming. It’s something her younger self may not have expected.  

‘If I could say anything to my 12-year-old self it would be: ‘there’s always going to be people who will make pre-informed judgements about you and that’s not always easy to bear. But know that it’s not your fault if that happens and you are enough.’

Top End Wedding is in cinemas May 2.

Find out more

Screen Australia is the Federal Government agency charged with supporting Australian screen development, production and promotion. The film received principal production investment from Screen Australia.

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