Filmmaker Darlene Johnson, is a Dunghutti woman from Belbrook a small bush town on the mid north coast of NSW. Her career as writer/director started with TWO BOB MERMAID, a story inspired by her Aboriginal mother’s experiences growing up under the assimilation policies of the 1950s. It was shortlisted for the Baby Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival and was the first Indigenous Australian film to screen at the festival. It went on to win Best Australian Short film at the Australian Film Critics Circle of Australia and Best Short Film at the Asia Pacific Film Festival.
Darlene then turned to documentary, writing and directing STOLEN GENERATIONS, which was nominated for an International EMMY Award and an AFI Award. This was followed by her films, STRANGER IN MY SKIN; FOLLOWING THE RABBIT-PROOF FENCE, a documentary on Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit Proof Fence; GULPILIL – ONE RED BLOOD (nominated for a Logie Award) and CROCODILE DREAMING featuring the first-time pairing of legendary Aboriginal actors David Gulpilil and Tom E. Lewis. CROCODILE DREAMING which was nominated for a Deadly Award and an IF Award. Next there was Darlene’s poetic and moving portrait, RIVER OF NO RETURN, about the complexities of living in a remote Indigenous community in the Northern Territory which was selected as the opening night film at imagineNATIVE Film Festival in Toronto, the world’s largest Indigenous Film Festival.
Darlene directed and produced documentaries for the MESSAGE STICK series for ABC TV and wrote, directed and produced the independent documentary, THE REDFERN STORY which was broadcast on the ABC and nominated for the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Best Documentary at the Sydney Film Festival. THE REDFERN STORY also received a Walkley Award nomination and an Australian Directors Guild nomination for Best Direction in a Documentary, winning an Atom Award for Best Documentary for Social and Political Issues.
Her short film BLUEY premiered at the Sydney Film Festival in 2015 winning the Event Cinema Award for Best Screenplay, going on to win 13 awards at numerous Australian and international festivals, including Best Direction in a Short Film at the Australian Directors Guild.
In 2018, Darlene was the first recipient of the Inaugural Shadow Directorship, an Australian Director’s Guild and Screen Australia’s Gender Matters Initiative, where she directed her first TV episode on the serial HOME AND AWAY followed by episodes on THE HEIGHTS for Matchbox Pictures and NEIGHBOURS, Australia’s longest running TV serial.
In 2019, Darlene won the Inaugural Australian International Screen Scholarship in New York City which was awarded by the International Screen Forum and the American Australian Association. Darlene was a recipient of the inaugural Screen NSW & Australians in Film (AIF) Charlie’s Talent Escalator Lab, run with support from Hollywood Foreign Press, which includes a 5 day virtual development lab and a trip to Los Angeles for networking and meeting opportunities. She was mentored by Jenny Halper from Maven Pictures. Darlene recently received an Australian Director’s Guild Award nomination for her directing work on THE HEIGHTS, her third ADG nomination.