World Premiere Announced – Toronto International Film Festival – EMU RUNNER

21 August 2018

Adelaide Film Festival to host Australian Premiere in October

Australian film Emu Runner will world premiere in the Discovery Program at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival on Friday 7 September, the first official day of screenings after the festival opening night on September 6.

Australian audiences will have their first opportunity to see the film when it debuts at the Adelaide Film Festival in October.

Emu Runner is the directorial feature debut from Imogen Thomas, who wrote the film in consultation with Aboriginal Ngemba woman Frayne Barker, from Brewarrina NSW where the film is set and shot. Thomas and Barker had previously collaborated on the award-winning short film Mixed Bag (2008).

Emu Runner tells the story of nine-year-old Indigenous girl, Gem Daniels (newcomer Rhae-Kye Waites), who lives in a remote Australian town. As she copes with her mother’s unexpected death, Gem finds solace in the company of a wild emu, unwittingly connecting her with her mother’s traditional totem animal.

Gem is a child full of wonder and intrigue, anchored by the deep cultural roots of her Ngemba people and country, and thus her sense of belonging is implicit. Told from Gem’s perspective of the world, this heart-warming and ultimately triumphant story plays out against the pressing issues and challenges that come from living in this isolated community.

The film stars actor/director Wayne Blair (Redfern Now, The Sapphires), Maurial Spearim (Wentworth, The Secret River), Georgia Blizzard (Home and Away, Thor: Ragnarok), Rob Carton (Chandon Pictures) and introduces a stunning cast of newcomers in Mary Waites, Letisha Boney, Lindsay Waites, Rodney McHughes and Stella Carter.

Emu Runner is a film made with and for the Brewarrina community. Many hands and a lot of hard work have been involved in the creation of Emu Runner. The process of making the film has been equally important as the end result. That the film has captured the imagination of the TIFF programmers, is an achievement that everyone that has collaborated on the film can be very proud about. We are delighted to have this opportunity to share this story with the world,” said director/writer/producer Imogen Thomas.

Acclaimed actor and director Wayne Blair who plays the role of Gem’s father Jay Jay said “My experience working on Emu Runner was exceptional. There was a real sense of family as we forged together to create this story. It was my first time in Brewarrina and the community support was wonderful as was director Imogen Thomas.”

Frayne Barker, Aboriginal Script Consultant said “It’s just nice to have our story and culture brought out into a movie. It’s opened the door to communication again. I gave a lot of feedback to Imogen of what I felt as an Aboriginal person and how this story would fit with our culture. It’s bringing everyone together in a positive way which, I think, is beautiful.”

Mary Waites, Indigenous Community Facilitator & Performer said “Emu Runner tells Brewarrina’s story. The Ngemba people are very spiritual people; very connected to the land. I believe it’s time for healing and I believe that Emu Runner will play a part in that.”

Producer Victor Evatt said “There is a point in everyone’s life where a single moment can define the connection we all share through family. Emu Runner is about disconnection and reconnection through grief, love and success.”

Jane Schoettle, International Programmer for Toronto International Film Festival said “The film is so beautifully made – deceptively simple and yet with so many resonant layers of meaning. The photography is beautiful, and the script is spare, making every word meaningful. Rhae-Kye Waites as Gem is amazing – I’ve not been able to get her performance out of my mind.”

Adelaide Film Festival CEO and Artistic Director Amanda Duthie said “Emu Runner is an incredibly special and multi-layered film. At its surface it is a heartwarming and gentle family film with the infectiously charming new young talent in Rhae-Kye Waites, while providing an insightful commentary on contemporary Australia and the disconnect between the hearts of community and the impassionate mechanics of bureaucracy.”

Brewarrina is a small town in northwestern NSW, Australia. Positioned near the banks of the Barwon River, Brewarrina is home to a large Indigenous community. It is the traditional land of the Ngemba, Murrawarri, Ualari, Weilwan and Baranbinja people. Brewarrina was where these tribes came together to partake in important ceremonies as well as to enjoy the abundant fish that the river offered, while utilizing the stone fish traps that have been there for over 40,000 years. To this day the river continues to hold great significance as well as nourish its community.

EMU RUNNER is an Imogen Thomas Films production. The film was produced by Imogen Thomas, Victor Evatt, Antonia Barnard, John Fink and Gabriel Barber Shipton. Indigenous Script Consultant is Frayne Barker, Indigenous Community Liaison by Mary Waites, Cinematography by Michael Gibbs, Art Direction by Lissa Coote, Costumes by Tiffany Daro, Edited by Nicole Norelli and Jenny Hicks. Sound Design by Tom Heuzenroeder. The original music was created by Ben Fink and Peter Michael Davidson with singer/songwriter Glenn Skuthorpe, singer/songwriter James Boney and cellist Eugenie Puskarz Thomas.

Production financed primarily by crowdfunding. Post-production investment from Fink Film, and completion funding from Screen Australia. Further post-production finance from individual donations and grants from the Aboriginal Benefits Foundation.

Adelaide Film Festival tickets on sale September 12.


Cathy Gallagher 0416 22 72 82 [email protected]

INTERVIEWS available with

director/writer/producer Imogen Thomas

Frayne Barker, Aboriginal Script Consultant

Mary Waites, Indigenous Community Facilitator & Performer


Imogen Thomas Biography

Imogen is a Sydney based filmmaker. From her passion for the theatre grew a desire to create stories for the screen. A graduate of the New York University, Tisch School of Arts, Graduate Flim Program, where she made several short films, notably ‘Mixed Bag’ which screened at numerous festivals worldwide.