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Filmmaker wins prestigious award

AFROMEfilmmaker’s portrayal of Australia’s “dark past” has won the Best Australian Documentary Award at the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, with hopes to screen the UK premiere of the film in Frome.

Adrian Strong, from Frome, is the co-producer of Fantome Island, which is a documentary that tells of how indigenous Australians were shipped off to the isolated Fantome Island after developing leprosy. The documentary follows the story of Joe Eggmolesse, who was just seven years-old when he was sent to Fantome Island in 1945.

Adrian and fellow film maker, Sean Gilligan explain that they worked extensively with the now 73-year-old Joe to create their award-winning documentary. Fantome island, situated off the north Queensland coast, was only closed in 1973 and Adrian says that its existence was hidden from white society. He also said that the film has thrust the island into the limelight and it has now been recognised as a national heritage site by the Queensland government.

Adrian said, “It was fantastic to have won ‘Best Australian Documentary’. I think it won because it has that blend of being informative but telling the story of one man’s narrative in a part of Australian history that is not known to most. It’s really an insight into Australia’s dark past. We were asked to make the movie by the residents of Palm Island, which is close to Fantome Island. It really stems from my passion of wanting to work with indigenous people in different countries – it’s something that I’m interested in.

“It was through some research that we found Joe’s phone number and he was very happy to work together with us to make Fantome Island. Joe spent 10 years on the island before being released and this is his story in a documentary style.

“The film has really raised the profile of Fantome Island and since the film was released, the island has been heritage listed. We were also awarded the John Oxley Library Award for the film by the Australian Government in view of its important historical content. What I would like to do now is screen the movie somewhere in Frome. It would be the UK premiere. Of course there’s the added bonus that I will be around for a chat too, if people have any questions about the film. It’s a full feature, 87-minute long documentary.

“It could benefit with a screening at one of the theatres, the Cheese and Grain or any Frome establishment that is interested.”

The film is Adrian’s second success on the international circuit. Last year Adrian spoke with Frome Times about his first documentary, Bitter Roots: the ends of a Kalahari Myth, which screened at film festivals across the globe.

If you would like to contact Adrian and put on a screening of Fantome Island you can email him at