It is a film two decades — and five Olympics — in the making: a deep dive into the story of the supreme creator spirits revered by the Worrorra, Ngarinyin and Wunumbal people of the Kimberley. It was a film spurred on by the meeting of young Melbourne filmmaker Tim Mummery and Worrorra elder Yorna (Donny) Woolagoodja shortly before the artist’s work turned Mowanjum into a household name. Documenting the birth of the giant Wandjina beamed across the world at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and Yorna’s mission to refresh the sacred cave painting it was modelled on, Namarali, was an enticing gig for Mummery. “I happened to be in Mowanjum shooting a health video and during that time.. I learnt Yorna had created a design that... would appear at the Olympics, and off the back of that he also told me the original of that image, the cave painting up the coast, after the Olympics he would go up there and repaint it,” Mummery said. “That was all I needed; I was like OK I will see you in Sydney in September and we will start. “It had all the ingredients you wanted in a film — an interesting person doing an interesting thing in an interesting location.” That film never got up — Mummery was unhappy with his work and did not feel he knew Yorna or Wandjina culture enough to do the story credit. “I was a young filmmaker and had unrealistic notions of how it would come together,” Mummery said. “With what I captured I couldn’t even adequately tell what a Wandjina was. “It would have been a rabble, it would have been ridiculous, and that was the last thing I wanted to do with the privilege I had been given.” And so began the long wait. It wasn’t until 2010 when Mummery, backed by eight more years of experience in the industry, was engaged by Mowanjum for another video that the cobwebs were blown off the ambitious Wandjina project. Fast-forward another decade and the film was finally ready for the public, but COVID-19 had other ideas. Now, finally, after two false starts, Mummery and Yorna are ready to make two decades of work public for the first time. “It allowed me to totally re-engage again with Yorna, to be up here with him and to explain what I thought the film needed,” Mummery said. “Every year the complexity of Wandjina culture I have got a bit more understanding of. “When it did come time for me to re-recorded and re-script the whole front of the film which talks about Wandjinas I felt comfortable doing that, and Yorna did too.” What has resulted is a well-refined and gorgeously shot deep dive into the remarkable history of the Wandjina, told as if Mowanjum doyen Yorna himself was the one producing the documentary. It focuses on Namarali, a full-bodied, four-metre long being with “impressive” headers composed of concentric circles and spear-like spokes. The Worrorra people believe Namarali is the sovereign Wandjina who brought law to coastal people before being speared in a tribal battle and buried in a cave. Led by Yorna’s memory and Mummery’s filmmaking, the documentary spans seven decades of archival footage including shots of Yorna’s father, Sam Woolagoodja, refreshing weather-worn Wandjina rock art. That work, Woolagoodja and his ancestors believe, is important as should the Wandjina paintings not be refreshed the monsoonal rains will not arrive. Central to the documentary is the story Mummery first took on back in 2000 — the fading of Namarali and Yorna’s internal battle about sharing his sacred culture with the world. The creation of Yorna’s 35m high Wandjina for the Sydney Olympics opening ceremony is now etched in Australian and Olympics history. It was at that time Yorna promised himself he would take on an even more important task to refresh Namarali, the cave painting the Olympics work was modelled on. Two years later Mummery, having learnt about Yorna’s story through Mowanjum arts teacher Mark Norval, travelled with Yorna 200km up the West Kimberley coast to Namarali’s country. Met by an “almost invisible” Wandjina painting, Yorna spent a week painstakingly refreshing the work. “That location is unbelievable — the first time I walked in there you would swear it had been made by a human hand,” Mummery said. “It was like a hall with these doors leading out to the bush — this amazing little room with pillars and ceiling sitting on a hill.” Whether coincidence or not, the following two wet seasons brought good rainfall. Mowanjum leaders such as Alison Burgu and Janet Oombagooma get a platform to share their stories too. In Mummery’s words the film is part lament for a people divorced from their ancestral lands and part roadmap for how Wandjina culture can be re-energised into the future. “For those unaware of Wandjina culture I hope they get a pretty solid introduction to what Wandjina culture is,” he said. “For those who do know about Wandjina culture I think this peeks pretty solidly behind the curtain. “You watch a traditional owner culturally approach a sacred space and refresh that — I don’t know of another film in Australia which does that.” Mummery said it was a happy coincidence the film was debuted as the Tokyo Olympics — which had it not been for COVID-19 would have marked 20 years since Yorna’s Wandjina appeared in Sydney — begins. It is hoped a TV appearance will follow today’s debut in Derby, and the documentary will likely be toured at anthropological film festivals.