It is Australia Day today. Much like the post I created last Canada Day I wanted to create a post that highlighted films set and produced in each territory/state of the nation on this day. Unlike the Canadian entry, I created this in part to seek further suggestions, as with the Canadian list I had ideas and sought to bolster my list.
Another unique issue that the Australian list presents is that as I looked up films I knew to be set/produced there many didn’t seem to have specificity to their locale and were shot in multiple territories/states. In the end, I did take one film that was shot all over and attribute it to one location, other more obvious titles that could be attributed to many areas were omitted.
As I mentioned above, I really am seeking suggestions too. It’s not the most comprehensive of lists, and the geographical subdividing makes it a bit tougher to assemble, but it was still fun – especially since it allowed me to do some more geography nerd-work, and Canada always came easier to me than did Australia, but now I think I have it all sorted.
The last disclaimer that applies is that I did find links to information on and video of documentaries about the Torres Strait and Christmas Islands, but found nothing suitable about the Capital District or Norfolk Island; so it really is mainland Australian titles within. However, it must be stated for the record that in my searches I did find a plethora of film festivals, agencies and resources in Canberra so that’s very cool.
Over the past few years I’ve been more drawn to Australian films and culture, so I would definitely be eager to find more and also to celebrate some of what I have seen thus far.
The Up Series
Though it is a British production, The Up Series of documentaries has had cause to go abroad as its subjects have grown. The series of films has interviewed subjects every seven years starting at the age of seven. While Nick has spent time teaching in the US, Bruce has taught in Bangladesh, John has done charitable work in Bulgaria; its most frequent trips have been to Australia where Paul moved shortly after the first film. His segments have been amongst the most interesting as his move preceded the talks of expatriates, which entered the series later on.
I am not against found footage as a rule. Furthermore, even if you hate it and cite say Chronicle or The Blair Witch Project as the exception that proves the rule, this is a film that should be viewed. In large part due to the fact that it utilizes a mockumentary structure with critical moments being examination of footage. It is a a higly effective slow burn that really packs a wallop.
The Devil’s Playground
Fred Schepisi may not be a name you consciously know but odds are you’ve seen something he’s directed. His credits include Roxanne, A Cry in the Dark (Which features later on this list), The Russia House and Six Degrees of Separation. This is his debut feature, which is an acclaimed, award-winning film that he also wrote, which is better than a vast majority of boarding school-set coming-of-age dramas that are more renowned.
OK, OK, I realize that it’s not original in the least to include a film called Australia on a list of Australian films. It’s such an obvious pick that I’d include it here whether I liked it or not, however, I am a fan of this film as the 2008 BAM Awards will evidence.
This is definitely a case where a propriety title (i.e. Baz Luhrmann’s Australia) may be very fitting. It’s clearly one man’s vision. It’s a Golden Age aesthetic plopped into the 21st Century and a sweeping epic that does traverse the nation.
However, much of the film does center around Darwin in the Northern Territory, hence that’s where I place it.
I grew up on Staten Island, the forgotten borough of New York City, so I have an affinity for any island that’s part of a larger whole. However, even as Staten Islanders we had our occasional moment of cinematic pride (as cheeky as it might be) like in Working Girl. I write that intro because I’m fairly sure that my Tasmanian selections will leave some nonplused and/or vexed. Believe me I am more than welcome to suggestions here, and for what it’s worth I think Tasmania should have an Aussie Rules team. Having said that, here’s my take on Taz:
My first introduction to the isle of Tasmania was through the insane depiction of the Devil as created by the Looney Tunes. Granted I had an inkling, even being young and only slightly informed, that it was a broad caricature but like with everything the Looney Tunes did it’s hilarious; even if the Devils don’t spin like dervishes, spit or even walk on their hind legs.
To mention an actual Australian character: the internet has shown me that Ginger Meggs is quite funny.
At least this one features a person who actually is Australian and made his character from Tasmania. Many don’t like this film. I didn’t quite expect to when I saw it in theaters, even though I was young, but I did.
Perhaps one of the most insightful jokes ever on Family Guy was about Crocodile Dundee. Crocodile makes a random appearance and then Peter says “I want to see a lot more of you and then suddenly none of you.” This film epitomizes this pop culture phenomena. We here in the US glutted ourselves on this film and Hogan such that the over-saturation seemed to have nauseated us to the concept by the time the sequel hit. That is rather unfortunate since the reception to the delayed third installment was fairly good, though the box-office was fairly tepid, as expected.
The films that the cast of the Harry Potter series did, while the series was ongoing, got a bad wrap at the time. In essence, Radcliffe’s involvement in this film was it seems mostly designed to buoy a film that deserved a wider reach. This a very well-told, heart-wrenching film that should be sought out.
New South Wales
When thinking of New South Wales and doing research three titles immediately jumped to mind. One I still have yet to see, two I have.
A Cry in the Dark is by this point an iconic film, and sadly, in the US in a bit of an infamous way due to the Seinfeld joke. However, this was not only a very popular film but features a great performance by Meryl Streep, one of her myriad Oscar nominations, and it’s a rather effective drama.
Finding Nemo, although it’s animated, takes place underwater, one of the major plot elements is hitting the East Australian current, but of course, the first line that pops into most people’s heads when it comes to this movie is “P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.” It is where the dentist’s office is, and it is a beloved film so it most certainly belongs.
Lastly, is Muriel’s Wedding. I honestly cannot tell you how I have not seen this film yet. It’s directed by P.J. Hogan won BAM Awards for his involvement in Peter Pan and stars Toni Collette who is a two-time BAM Award winner in her own right. I will rectify this and seeing the Mad Max films soon.
With South Australia I have selected two titles. I have done so with two different trains of thought: one title I want to see based on what I learned about the plot. The second, I have seen and though it was not a film I personally enjoyed (far from it) it is a film that has received a lot of acclaim, but not necessarily viewership.
The film I would like to see is Australian Rules, which deals not only with the antipodean version of the game, which I love, but also with race relations (white and aboriginal).
The film I have seen is Snowtown (aka Snowtown Murders). My displeasure with the film is mostly due to the narrative.
So there are the films I could come up with based mostly on what I’ve seen. As I said, I do these in part to have new films to hunt down. So what say you? Comment below or tweet me @BernardoVillela.