“Hey Max, it’s Todd, I might be in and out of range a bit today so I’ll just keep trying.”
Filmmaker Todd Delfs is a hard man to get a hold of. When I finally do, our man is in Bremer Bay, a far-flung corner of Western Australia’s southern coast that’s mostly accessible by 4WD, where he’s filming the region’s untamed coastline, bush and fauna for a Perth fashion label. Originally it was surfing that got Delfs into making movies and filming in remote parts of the country. More lately, food has been the catalyst for much of the 32-year-old filmmaker’s travel, in particular spending the past six years working with Paul “Yoda” Iskov from native food pop-up Fervor.
“I met Yodes through Bree [Iskov’s sister and Fervor co-founder] through surfing and she told me about this thing her and her brother were doing at Injidup Cave,” says Delfs who, at the time, was living in Gracetown and had just finished studying film at university. “I didn’t know anything about food and not much about Indigenous culture prior to that event but went to film and take photos. Everything blew my mind.”
Since that event in 2013, Delfs has been a regular on Fervor tours and has travelled with the Iskovs and Paul’s partner, Stephne Pronk, to document dinners in destinations including Karratha, Kakadu and Broome as well as throughout the south-west. Initially, the plan was to produce film clips that could be shared online but after discussing his work with Australian independent film distribution company Madman Entertainment two years ago, he realised there was enough material in his archive for something bigger.
“All the guys at Madman said we should really consider turning this into a documentary,” says Delfs. “They said the footage we had was too good to throw willy-nilly out on the web.”
Enter The Fat of The Land, a documentary that condenses four years, nine distinct West Australian regions and the six seasons of the Nyoongar calendar into a 60-minute celebration of First Nations culture. The entire documentary was shot and edited by Delfs (“No fancy camera or big production team. Just a two-man team [Iskov and Delfs]. That’s the intimacy level we really wanted to have. There’s time, respect and patience.”) and follows Iskov as he travels across Western Australia and Australia’s Top End spending time on country with traditional owners.
While native plants and ingredients are at the heart of the documentary, The Fat of The Land isn’t an extended cooking show. Instead, Delfs zeroes in on the stories and traditions of these ingredients and food’s ability to bring people together.
“We’re not about saying this food does this and you cook it like this,” says Delfs. “We really wanted to put some weight behind it: there’s a philosophy behind this food that far outweighs what the food does for you nutritionally. One of the major points of the film is to encourage the fusion of modern innovation and traditional knowledge systems. We want native foods to be used in everyday households in a way that’s not exploitative.”
While most of the documentary has been shot, the final step in its production is completing the script. Delfs has set up a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the required research, travel and consultation fees. Interested people can support the project here.