TV Review: Firebrite

A TV show about Indigenous vampire-hunters, accompanied by a soundtrack made up of exclusively Aussie bands? Say no bloody more.

Warwick Thornton and Brendan Fletcher’s latest venture into storytelling follows the exploits of Shanika (Shantae Barnes Cowan) and Tyson (Rob Collins), two reckless desert bandits hunting down the last of the white vampire colony in their fictional outback town of Opal City. Set in a world in which the eleven ships that arrived as the First Fleet at Botany Bay in 1788 brought with them men, women, children and vampires, the blood-sucking monsters in Firebite are an apt metaphor of colonisation and attempted cultural eradication. 

As much as Firebite is a story about the destructive effects of colonisation, it’s also a story of celebration. Although obviously fictional, Firebite leans on the tried-and-tested vampire trope to navigate themes of colonial devastation, cultural erasure, identity and family in a way that puts Indigenous voices front and centre. Both veterans of local storytelling, Thornton – known for writing and directing films such as Sweet Country (2017) and Samson and Delilah (2009) – and Fletcher – who wrote and directed Sundance Grand Jury Prize Nominee Mad Bastards (2010) – have created a show that spotlights First Nations peoples’ voices both on screen, with a diverse cast, and behind the camera. 

With Dirty Three drummer Jim White and The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard and Dan Luscombe at the helm of the Firebite score, you can be assured you’re in for a treat when it comes to the music that underlines, and at times engulfs, the show. Bands like Amyl and the Sniffers and Private Function fill the soundtrack, the tornedo of chaos and excitement they emit from their music complementing the ridiculous action sequences as Tyson and Shanika take on some bloodsuckers. Armed with deadly boomerangs and an array of explosives, this duo of vampire-hunting cowboys take on the shadow-lurking monsters of their small town all while addressing themes and questions of culture and identity. And with every slice of music that underpins all these frenetic action sequences being that by an Australian artist, Thornton and Fletcher really ram the message of celebration of local talent home. 

Seeing authentic (and great quality) Australian content on screen is becoming less of a rarity thanks to the plethora of opportunities streaming services are providing Aussie creators. Whereas previously a show like Firebite may have been too niche for broadcast TV, it’s able to find a home and an audience online. Unfortunately, this home is one of too many gates, with Firebite only available through subscription extension package AMC+ through platforms like Amazon Prime and Apple TV. However, if you can navigate your way through these unnecessarily multi-layered subscription services, it will be well worth the effort. 

Article written by Juliette Salom

Image courtesy of AMC+

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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