The big-screen adaptation of successful musical Bran Nue Dae and four feature-length documentaries have received the first $324,800 (A$350,000) from the Melbourne International Film Festival's $1.3m (A$1.4m) Premiere Fund.

One of the documentaries is about US celebrity commentator Dominic Dunne and will include footage of him covering music producer Phil Spector's murder trial. Sue Maslin (Japanese Story) is one of the executive producers.

Bran Nue Dae is to be directed by Rachel Perkins, who made the sibling drama Radiance and the musical drama One Night The Moon. Popular television host Ernie Dingo has one of the key roles and the choreography will be by Stephen Page, who is prominent in Australia 's dance scene.

'The stage play was one of the most successful in our history because it reaches out to people across boundaries,' said Perkins, a highly experienced television executive and one of the few indigenous Australians to have directed a feature film.

Bran Nue Dae 's theme is finding home. It is set in 1965 and is grounded in the area around Broome, a remote but now booming tourist town on the north coast of Western Australia.

Perkins has referred to the film as being ' Australia 's Dreamgirls' in that it is an upbeat indigenous story. She references Strictly Ballroom, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou' and Billy Elliot when talking about its sensibility.

Perkins wrote the script with Reg Cribb (Last Train To Freo) and the stage play's creator Jimmy Chi.

Kershaw said she was unable to reveal who was backing the project; if she did not have letters of offer it would not have been eligible for MIFF funding. She is producing alongside Graeme Issac.

Bran Nue Dae and the four documentaries will all be screened for the first time at MIFF.


Bran Nue Dae

Prods: Robyn Kershaw, Graeme Issac; Dir: Rachel Perkins; Writers: Rachel Perkins, Reg Cribb, Jimmy Chi. An adaptation of popular Aboriginal musical Bran Nue Dae, the film is an upbeat coming-of-age, romantic musical and 1960s road movie featuring the choreography of Stephen Page.

Rock & Roll Nerd

Exec Prod: Lizzette Atkins; Prod/Dir/Writer: Rhian Skirving. A rags to riches observational documentary following Melbourne musician and performance artist's Tim Minchin meteoric rise to fame in London, Montreal and Edinburgh.

Celebrity - Tales Of Dominic Dunne

Exec Prods: Sue Maslin, Daryl Dellora; Prods/Dirs/Writers: Tim Jolley, Kirsty De Garis. Set against the backdrop of the trial of music producer Phil Spector, Celebrity travels through a world intrigue, showbiz, the American justice system and the all-pervasive cult of celebrity, while giving the inside scoop through the eyes of Vanity Fair's Dominick Dunne.


Prod: Philippa Campey; Dir/Writer: Amiel Courtin-Wilson. Journeying into a little-seen side of Melbourne, Bastardy is an adventurous portrait of Jack Charles, a well-known personality on the streets of Melbourne, colourful fringe-dweller and sometime actor in the likes of The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith.

Whatever Happened To Brenda Hean

Prods: Michael McMahon, Scott Millwood; Dir/Writer: Scott Millwood. An investigative environmental documentary that seeks to uncover the true story of Brenda Hean, one of one of the first leaders of an environmental party in the world and her fight to save Tasmania's Lake Pedder, which ends abruptly with her mysterious disappearance in 1972.