Miranda Tapsell: Top End Wedding

Top End Wedding  (2019) The bride Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) with her three bridesmaids in the background - Dana (Elaine Crombie), Ronelle (Shari Sebbens), Kailah (Dalara Williams) - Courtesy of Goalpost Pictures

Top End Wedding (2019) The bride Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) with her three bridesmaids in the background - Dana (Elaine Crombie), Ronelle (Shari Sebbens), Kailah (Dalara Williams) - Courtesy of Goalpost Pictures

 

Miranda Tapsell is an indigenous Australian producer, screenwriter and actor. After starring as Cynthia in Wayne Blair’s Cannes hit The Sapphires, Tapsell wrote Top End Wedding—her first feature film in which Blair reprises his role as director, and Tapsell plays the lead alongside Bohemian Rhapsody co-star, Gwilym Lee.

Top End Wedding is a female-led charismatic romantic comedy set in the Northern Territory of Australia. Notably, the film is the first Australian feature film to be co-written and acted by an indigenous female artist.

The story follows two newly engaged lovebirds—Lauren and Ned, who have ten days to find Lauren’s mother who has gone AWOL and disappeared into the Northern Territory—in time to pull off their dream of a Top End Wedding.

The groom, Ned (Gwilym Lee) with the three bridesmaids (from left) Kailah (Dalara Williams), Ronelle (Shari Sebbens) and Dana (Elaine Crombie) - Courtesy of Goalpost Pictures

The groom, Ned (Gwilym Lee) with the three bridesmaids (from left) Kailah (Dalara Williams), Ronelle (Shari Sebbens) and Dana (Elaine Crombie) - Courtesy of Goalpost Pictures

Reminiscent of romantic comedies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this joyful Australian indigenous love story is full of heart and paints a vision of two cultures; Australia’s oldest indigenous peoples, in this case the Tiwi community, and contemporary Australians, coming together for a genuinely fun comedic romp—despite their incredibly vast differences in language and culture.

Unlike other Australian films, while the film does borrow from universally-used romantic comedy tropes, the inclusion of indigenous filmmakers in key creative roles to tell the story, spotlights the female indigenous voice in a refreshingly honest and intimate way, that we simply haven’t seen before and need to see much more of.

top end wedding official trailer - Universal Pictures

When asked about the rarity of films lead by Australian female indigenous creatives, Tapsell remarked “You know, so many Australians have not been to the Northern Territory before and a lot of people don't really know Aboriginal people because they don't live in the same area as Aboriginal people. I wanted to be completely honest about what I knew of the communities that I grew up with and who raised me. But I also wanted people to see everything that went right in those communities.”

I believe in the diversity of indigenous filmmaking; that there’s not just one genre of indigenous filmmaking.
— Miranda Tapsell

One of the highlights of the film was an intimate and authentic insight into the indigenous communities in the Northern territory, in amongst the breath-taking Australian landscapes of the region that frame the narrative, shot beautifully by cinematographer Eric Murray Lui.

Top End Wedding  (2019) L-R Miranda Tapsell (Lauren Ford), Ursula Yovich (Daffy Ford) & Lynette Marie Johnson (Eugenia) - Courtesy of GoalPost Pictures.

Top End Wedding (2019) L-R Miranda Tapsell (Lauren Ford), Ursula Yovich (Daffy Ford) & Lynette Marie Johnson (Eugenia) - Courtesy of GoalPost Pictures.

In Tapsell’s view, “This movie showcases everything that I love about the Tiwi community, the Larrakia community, and all the Aboriginal tribes across the Northern Territory. I love that it takes a village to raise a child, that everyone helps one another out. Even though I didn't grow up on the Tiwi islands, they still embraced me as family. I wanted a film that said, ‘Why wouldn't you celebrate this?’”

When asked about the creative process of getting the film made with Blair, and the significance of the film’s diverse creative team, she was humble about her achievement: “I think what was really fortunate was, everyone who was brought on board by Wayne just got it. I just loved that even though they might have not been indigenous, even though they knew that they were outside of the experience; they were contributing to something that was so special and that was still relevant to them.”

Top End Wedding  (2019) Ned Pelton(Gwilym Lee) in Kakadu National Park - Courtesy of Goalpost Pictures

Top End Wedding (2019) Ned Pelton(Gwilym Lee) in Kakadu National Park - Courtesy of Goalpost Pictures

Everyone was working towards amplifying the indigenous voice in it. I think that was the most beautiful thing and what carried on into the film.
— Miranda Tapsell

On what drew Blair to become involved as the director, he said “What really stayed with me was this young person’s journey to find out who she was and to eventually go home to her community. To have some sense of identity that wasn't there with her in those initial years of her life. That's what drew me to the story.”

Top End Wedding  (2019) Lauren Ford (Miranda Tapsell) at Nitmuluk (also known as Katherine Gorge) with a local ranger - Courtesy of Goalpost Pictures

Top End Wedding (2019) Lauren Ford (Miranda Tapsell) at Nitmuluk (also known as Katherine Gorge) with a local ranger - Courtesy of Goalpost Pictures

Tapsell discussed the portrayal of the strong, vibrant, and outspoken female characters in her film: “I am a biracial woman, and so, I have grown up with a lot of strong women on both sides of my family. So, it feels so natural for me to speak from that perspective.“

For me, it was just truthful that there are strong women, that there are so many matriarchs in the community. I think it hadn’t been talked about on film before. And rather than trying to speak about that, I just wanted to put everything that I believed into the film—what I know, what I believe to be true.
— Miranda Tapsell

Top Ending Wedding enjoyed a warm reception during its world premiere at Sundance where audiences in Utah left the theatre with a magical experience of the beauty of indigenous Australian culture and their land.

Film team attends the World Premiere of  Top End Wedding  by Wayne Blair an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. © 2019 Sundance Institute | photo by Jemal Countess.

Film team attends the World Premiere of Top End Wedding by Wayne Blair an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. © 2019 Sundance Institute | photo by Jemal Countess.

When discussing the general lack of opportunities available for leading women of colour within the film industry, Tapsell offered this parting wisdom from her journey of bringing her dream to the big screen in a leading role:

“I've been very lucky that people have been willing to give me opportunities; even though I've been so green. But, also, I had a lot of drive behind me. I don't want people to think that I've had things just handed to me on a silver platter. I was very persistent about going to drama school.

I kept auditioning until I got in, and even though people gave me a lot of opportunities—I still asked for them. I still let people know I want this. And I think that that's what has really worked in my favour. I just constantly kept asking questions and I kept pushing for what I wanted. When you ask, you receive.”

You can follow Top End Wedding on Instagram at @TopEndWeddingMovie and Facebook to stay updated on the film and its upcoming theatrical release on May 2nd.


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About the filmmaker

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Miranda Tapsell

Miranda Tapsell is a proud Larrakia woman from Darwin who grew up in Kakadu National Park. Tapsell graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 2008 and is known for her performance in the multi-award winning feature film The Sapphires, playing the feisty Cynthia. Miranda has also received two Logie Awards for Love Child – Most Popular New Talent and The Graham Kennedy Award for Most Outstanding Newcomer. She has had roles in the international success Cleverman for ABC-TV, Foxtel’s Secret City and Stan’s Wolf Creek and starred in Season 1 of Redfern Now and Black Comedy. Other television credits include Mabo for Blackfella Films and Little J & Big Cuz for ABC-TV, which has announced its second season. In 2018 she appeared in Season 3 of Doctor Doctor on the Nine Network and Squinters for Jungle FTV. Her podcast on BuzzFeed, Pretty for an Aboriginal, presented with Nakkia Lui, rocks the traditional perceptions of Indigenous Australia, challenges rigid mindsets of what women of colour can and cannot do.