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Directors: Steven Lawrence, Phil Lucas and Nick Torrens

Producers: Steven Lawrence and Nick Torrens

Editor, Bob Jorissen

DPs: Shana Hagan and Peter Zakharov 



Cine Golden Eagle, Feature Documentary,     2003

Best Documentary, Down Under Film  

  Festival 2003

Vis à Vis: Native Tongues

Documentary. PBS/SBS Australia. 


"Native Tongues" is the third Vis à Vis documentary Yerosha produced for PBS, based on the innovative idea of using digital video links and diaries between subjects in different countries. In this episode producer/director Steven Lawrence wanted to explore how indigenous artists in the US and Australia use humor and storytelling to counter the stereotypes of native people. After extensive research he chose Native American performance artist James Luna, and Ningali Lawford, an Aboriginal actor/playwright.


Through a development grant from the Soros Documentary Fund, Steven traveled to meet and do preliminary filming with James on the La Jolla reservation in California, and with Ningali Lawford in Melbourne. The creative team he assembled included award-winning Australian producer-director Nick Torrens, who helped secure Aussie co-production financing, and Phil Lucas, a groundbreaking Native American director, who joined as co-director on the US side.


With funding from CPB, Native American Public Telecommunications and the Australian Film Financing Corporation and SBS, the team recorded four exchanges between James and Ningali full of candid conversation, performance and videos about their lives, work, and personal/family experiences with discrimination. Locations changed for each encounter, with Ningali starting in Melbourne and traveling to Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia, where she grew up. With James’ work based on confrontation and Ningali’s more on seduction through humor, they challenged each other to consider new artistic directions.


"Vis à Vis: Native Tongues" was broadcast on PBS in 2003 and went on to win a Cine Golden Eagle award for feature documentary; the Australian version won Best Documentary at the Down Under Festival.


This clip introduces James and Ningali and takes them through their first exchange. The full film is available at

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