An Indigenous Australian filmmaker who grew up in the New South Wales country towns of Tamworth and Inverell, Ivan Sen is a descendant of the Gamilaroi and Bigambal language groups of northwest New South Wales and southern Queensland. He also is of Hungarian, German and Croatian descent. In the early 1990s he studied photography at the Queensland College of Art and worked as a camera operator and sound recordist. He also graduated from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in 1997 with a BA in directing.
Throughout the late 1990s Sen worked on numerous short films, before making his feature film debut Beneath Clouds in 2002. For this project he drew on his own background as the child of an Aboriginal mother and an absent white father. Both written and directed by Sen, Beneath Clouds drew much critical acclaim, and was subsequently nominated for numerous national and international awards. Among these were wins for Best Directing (2002 AFI Awards and 2002 IF Awards).
Since 2002 Sen has worked predominantly on documentaries. In 2005 his film Yellow Fella was chosen to screen at the Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival, the first Indigenous Australian documentary to do so.
'Indigenous Detective Jay Swan arrives in a frontier mining town on a missing persons enquiry.
'What seems like a simple “light duties” investigation soon opens into a web of crime and corruption implicating the local Mayor, Mining Boss and Aboriginal Land Council.
'Jay must overcome personal differences with the young local policeman while he pulls his life together to dig deeper into the conspiracy. They are led into a world of people trafficking and organised crime at the heart of the local mining industry, where the value of a life is pitted against big money and deep-rooted corruption.' (Production summary)
'The film is set entirely in the remote Indigenous community of Toomelah, located on the NSW, QLD border. It was created as a mission during the 1930s, bringing together Gamilaroi and Bigambal people from the surrounding area.
'The story centres on Daniel, a small ten year old boy who dreams of being a gangster. He is kicked out of school and befriends a local gang leader, until a rival gangster arrives back from jail to reclaim his turf. A showdown ensues and Daniel is caught in the middle, leaving him with a choice to make about his uncertain future.
'Toomelah is a deeply personal story, that intimately depicts mission life in contemporary Australia. The film reveals the challenges facing the young Gamilaroi people of the Toomelah Community. Robbed of much of their traditional culture by Government policy, it is a community on a cultural edge, struggling for an identity. It is a provocative and yet comic story that transports audiences inside the community, creating an authentic world and way of life that is Toomelah.'