La Perouse’s Rodney Ardler is the focus of a new film, ‘Big Fella’, which confronts the crippling health effects of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity in Indigenous communities throughout Australia.

The world premiere of ‘Big Fella’, which has led to Ardler being dubbed both Aboriginal Australia’s Biggest Loser and La Perouse’s most eligible bachelor, will screen as part of the Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival at Sydney Opera House on Friday.

Director Michael Longbottom presents the story of his good friend Rodney, who is struggling with the crippling effects of diabetes and obesity.

This is a fly-on-the-wall look at Ardler’s life; his battle to stay alive and his fight against the demons of disease.

‘Big Fella’ follows Ardler as he radically transforms his life in one year and becomes a role model both to his family and to his community.

The journey for Ardler begins two weeks before he undergoes lap-band surgery at The Sydney Institute for Obesity Surgery (SIOS). He then weighs 185 kg and doctors say it is necessary for him to lose weight to prevent a stroke or a heart attack.

“My doctor said I had to do something about my health or I was going to die,” he said.

Ardler is 65 kg lighter today and in his own words has “never been happier in my life”.

But this is not just Ardler’s story. It is a story that is repeated in Aboriginal communities across Australia: Indigenous Australians are eight times more likely to die of a diabetes-related illness than their non-Indigenous friends.

“My father had a heart attack at age 40 and my mother has had a triple bypass,” he said. “The health problems are so widespread; so many of our people are dying.”

The Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival, at Sydney Opera House this week, will celebrate the beginning of another decade of Indigenous storytelling, with five world premieres, four Australian premieres, Q & A sessions with filmmakers and the debut of a sing-along version of the award-winning musical Bran Nue Dae hosted by Ernie Dingo.

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