Well-known Australians play detective as they go in search of their family history, revealing secrets from the past. Taking us to all corners of Australia and the globe are six stories of individuals seeking to find the definitive answer to where they came from. Along the way secrets are uncovered and histories are revealed – with each individual discovering that their ancestors form an integral part of not only their own identity, but that of the nation. Combining emotional and personal journeys with big-picture history, these inspiring and sometimes challenging stories remind us how Australians have come to be the people that we are today.
Actor and Living Legend
Australian acting icon Jack Thompson unearths more than a couple of surprises – and significant Australian heritage—but where does he come from and who does he think he is? Born John Hadley Pain in Sydney in 1940, Jack took on the name of the Thompson family, who adopted him as a child after the death of his mother. In Who Do You Think You Are? Jack will for the first time endeavour to discover the real family history of his biological relations. Does he have a famous bushranger in the family or Indigenous ancestors and just what draws him to the forests of southern Queensland? As Jack’s aunt, the family matriarch hands over the reins to him, he is about to find out more than he could have imagined.
Writer / Director: Catherine Marciniak | Post Director: Alan Carter | Editor: David Fosdick
Director Of Photography: Ian Pugsley ACS | Assistant Producer: Britt Arthur
“ ...a fascinating look at a man we may have felt we knew quite well but who admits he doesn't know himself at all.” – Robin Oliver, Show of the week, SMH, 7/1/08
Singer and performer
Kate Ceberano is convinced she descended from ‘pirates and bums’ but as she delves into her family tree she uncovers links to an artistic past. Kate’s expectation of pirates and bums is squashed when she learns that one early ancestor, an entrepreneurial Swede, sunk arterial wells in the Mallee region of Australia. On the trail of a mysterious Spanish sea captain, she heads to Tasmania where she finds, to her delight, a relationship with music teacher turned artist Henry Mundy. Kate will cross cities and cultures in the search of her past, uncovering pioneers and colonialists along the way.
Writer / Director: Kay Pavlou | Post Director: Andrew Saw | Editor: Peter Pritchard
Director Of Photography: Ulrich-Stephan Krafzik | Assistant Producer: Ili Barè
“ ...the enthusiasm of the people in this series is strangely infectious... When an exhuberant Ceberano declares, "I now have an answer to the question 'why do you do what you do?' ", we understand. More please. ” – Conrad Walters, SMH, 20/1/08
QC and Human Rights Advocate
Geoffrey Robertson QC believes that it is nature not nurture that shapes our moral integrity, but does his family history provide an aside to his theory? Fifth generation Australian Geoffrey has lived in London for decades, but he remains proudly Australian. He traces his Scottish ancestors—early mountain cattlemen who were the first of the self-made Robertsons in Australia—as well as another part of his family, ensconced in a life of wealth and privilege. Within his family history he finds links to royal patronage, the whiff of a cover-up and even a royal scandal. His own family, he discovers, is a perfect example of the cultural and ethnic melting pot that makes up Australia.
Writer / Director: Judy Rymer | Post Director: Alan Carter | Editor: Lawrie Silvestrin
Director Of Photography: Ian Pugsley ACS | Assistant Producer: Renè Bransby
“ ...the picture created is often not what the subject thought they knew and the real pleasure is in the unfolding...” – Gordon Farrar, The Age 27/1/08
Olympic Gold Medallist
Athlete Catherine Freeman goes in search of the source of her drive and determination, unearthing an unexpected family heritage. Gold medallist in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Catherine is an inspiration to many. She possesses an irrepressible pride in her country and her people. Her strong sense of identity is something she believes has been passed down from her ancestors. Her mother Cecelia was born on Palm Island, a penal settlement for Aborigines and her father Norman, also a 'Murri', was a rugby league footballer, but little more of the family history is known. Now she's on a journey to find out where her fighting spirit comes from.
Writer / Director: Jane Manning | Post Director: Alan Carter | Editor: David Fosdick
Director Of Photography: Ian Pugsley ACS | Assistant Producer: Sarah Royos
“ Cathy Freeman's golden run at the Sydney 2000 Olympics showed true determination- a quality exhibited again here when she traces her family heritage. Cathy discovers many unsettling facts, in particular how her forebears were treated by government policy, which gives this revealing story an emotional edge.” – TV Week 2/2/08
Sporting Commentator Extraordinaire
Sports commentator Dennis Cometti finds mystery, murder and a gift for the gab as he follows his family tree back to Australia’s settlement. From a remote Western Australian goldfield to northern Italy, Dennis uncovers a rich Italian heritage before heading to east coast Australia where several more surprises–and more than one shady character–are revealed. It is a journey that leaves him with a lifetime of anecdotes and an extended family he never imagined possible.
Writer / Director: Franco Di Chiera | Post Director: Andrew Saw | Editor: David Fosdick
Director Of Photography: Ian Pugsley ACS | Assistant Producers: Britt Arthur & Diana Pepper
“ The endeavours seems so unrehearsed it appears the camera crew is there on the off-chance he will meet someone related to his grandfather… If the stories are as unrehearsed as they seem - and this is a large part of the charm- how could they be so sure of the unexpected dimensions that emerge?” – Larry Schwartz, The Age, 7/2/08
Media personality and publisher Ita Buttrose discovers determination and drive may be hereditary as she puts her journalistic skills to the test to trace her global family. She knows of a relation named William Butters who sailed from Scotland to Adelaide but not how the family name changed from Butters to Buttrose. Following her maternal side, Ita discovers she has a strong Jewish connection, including a chief rabbi, in her family. She traces her Jewish ancestors to New York and Hungary. Along the way she hopes to find out if the Buttrose will to ‘fight the system’ is flowing through her veins.
Writer / Director: Franco Di Chiera | Post Director: Franco Di Chiera | Editor: Lawrie Silvestrin
Director Of Photography: Ulrich-Stephan Krafzik | Assistant Producer: Britt Arthur
Based on the smash hit BBC series Who Do You Think You Are?, each episode will profile an Australian celebrity tracing their family tree.
The original UK series was created and produced by Wall to Wall Media.Who Do You Think You Are? is a Film Australia, Serendipity Productions and Artemis International Production in association with ScreenWest, Lotterywest and SBS Independent. © Copyright 2007.
Format Licensed by Wall to Wall Media Ltd
"We welcome the return of the impeccable Who Do You Think You Are?"
"A documentary that confronts, questions and raises many issues:medical ethics,personal choice and funding priorities - but none more so than the rights of the disabled, and of a mother and father."
"… is full of emotion,heartache,frustration and determination."
"… essentially a story of courage"
‘The filmmaker creates a perceptive, multilayered understanding of the young refugees’ experiences’
‘It is hard to remain dry-eyed as the schools multicultural soccer team sings Advance Australia Fair in the bus home from a match.'
"... already acknowledged as the world's most exciting visual and physical theatre company...the reason to go and see Stalker is the way they marry jaw dropping spectacle with real purpose."
"This is engaging and entertaining telly that also has something important to say"
"Set in WA, this is one reality series we all should watch."
"Setting this documentary apart…is the effort it makes to humanise the poachers and explain the circumstances which compels them to hunt."
"A dose of Reality TV without the hype"
"All three groups of fishermen feature in Lobster Tales, an ABC documentary that will change the way you look at these delicious crustaceans forever."
“The great achievement of Lobster Tales, a delightfully oddball WA-made documentary on the lucrative local crayfish industry ... strikes such a lovely balance between the lobsters and fishermen that it’s more like a well-wrought tragi-comedy than a traditional nature doco"
“Even for non-lobster-lovers, this quirky feature provides plenty of interest ... the highlight is the underwater photography by Leighton de Barros which is up-close and stunning."
"shows ordinary people doing extraordinary things ... the program usues the magic of TV to bring an important WA story to life"
“Though it’s not easy to watch a widow finally open up about her murdered husband (nor is it comfortable watching local Iraqis genuinely praise Saddam Hussein), Salam Father is yet another reason why the terms "SBS" and "quality documentary" fit like a hand in glove."
“A sense of reconciliation emerges in the program and there's considerable poignancy as elements of a family torn apart by war, politics and circumstance are reunited…"
“This is the compelling story of a family torn apart by war, envy, corruption and greed and how a quest for answers also helped heal old wounds. It might also help people look beyond the descriptions "refugee" and "asylum seeker" to see the person and their story…A powerful piece of television, made more authentic by Ziusudras' first-hand narration of this tale.”
"This documentary never becomes bogged down in legalese and is a compelling tale of one family's devotion to their son"
"A remarkable story and a clever and affecting piece of storytelling"
"An emotional journey...unflinchingly captured on camera"
Koori queens proudly get out and about in this high-spirited and affirming documentary."
"We get a rare glimpse into the world of indigenous gay men in tonight's Sissy ... an energetic, inventive and occasionally touching Western Australian-made documentary that looks at the lives of three colourful drag queens."
"Considering the double whammy served up by homophobia and racism, Sissy insists on having a good time while handling thought-provoking material."
[Shaun Micallef’s] quest to discover if there is ‘‘greater purpose than being a semi-professional Australian TV personality’’ makes for a funny and watchable journey.
Filled with wit, warmth and revelations, Stairway To Heaven will intrigue even non-believers.
"It's a compelling story and you made a compelling film out of it. Just terrific."
"A fascinating insight into the world of the night"
“Surprising, raunchy, hilarious, crazy! Expect the unexpected!”
"Puppetry most certainly is an art from and some of the performances here will take your breath away"
“I have been directly or indirectly involved in WDYTYA productions in the U.S., Canada and the U.K …I must say that this one [Andrew Denton's episode] of the very best I have seen”
"...it's the most engaging detective series in years"
"... surprising, extraordinary and often moving"
"A compelling, lovely adaption of an excellent British format"
"One of the reliable pleasures of this series is just how great it looks. The production values are always first-class and wherever we are in Australia or the world, you can't quibble with the scenery. Who Do You Think You Are? is about much more than looking pretty, though, blending history and biography to create a package that's accessible, entertaining and educational. (FOUR STARS)"
“It's the perfect mix of history and celebrity..."
"... this program has about it a quiet authenticity that allows the subject’s story to unfold of its own accord."
"The series is more than a peek into the backgrounds of the famous; it also chronicles the social and cultural evolution of our national identities via these celeb family histories. 4/5 stars"
"Each episode is essentially a feature documentary, well-researched and produced, and presented usually with a humorous or deeply emotional touch... This show is seriously habit-forming"
This series is fascinating and so well done...
(pick of the week)
"... explores the family histories of its subjects with class and humour. Verdict: A Hit."