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Australian Film (7AAQS585)


form y separately published work icon Australia Baz Luhrmann , Stuart Beattie , Ronald Harwood , Richard Flanagan , ( dir. Baz Luhrmann ) Sydney : Bazmark Films , 2008 Z1531345 2008 single work film/TV (taught in 8 units)

At the beginning of World War II, Lady Sarah Ashley travels from her home in England to Northern Australia to confront her husband, whom she believes is having an affair. He is in the country to oversee the selling of his enormous cattle station, Faraway Downs. Her husband sends Drover, an independent stockman, to transport her to Faraway Downs. When Lady Sarah arrives at the station, however, she finds that her husband has been murdered (allegedly by King George, an Aboriginal elder) and that cattle station manager Neil Fletcher is trying to gain control of Faraway Downs, so that Lesley 'King' Carney will have a complete cattle monopoly in the Northern Territory.

Lady Sarah is captivated by Nullah (King George's grandson) son of an Aboriginal mother and an unknown white father. When Nullah tells her that he has seen her cattle being driven onto Carney's land, Fletcher beats him. Lady Sarah fires Fletcher, deciding to try to run the cattle station herself. To save the property from Carney, she enlists the aid of Drover; together, they drive 2,000 head of cattle across hundreds of miles of the country's most unforgiving land. In the course of the journey, she falls in love with both Drover and the Australian landscape.

Lady Sarah, Nullah, and Drover live together happily at Faraway Downs for two years, while Fletcher (the actual murderer of Lady Sarah's husband and very likely the father of Nullah) kills Carney, marries his daughter, and takes over Carney's cattle empire. When the authorities send Nullah to live on Mission Island with the other half-Aboriginal children, Lady Sarah is devastated. In the meantime, she works as a radio operator in Darwin.

When the Japanese attack the island and Darwin in 1942, Lady Sarah fears that Nullah has been killed and Drover, who had quarrelled with Lady Sarah and left the station, believes Lady Sarah has been killed. Learning of Nullah's abduction to Mission Island, however, he sets out to rescue him. Lady Sarah decides to sell Faraway Downs to Fletcher and return to England. Drover and Nulla sail back into port at Darwin as Lady Sarah is about to depart, and the three are reunited. Fletcher, distraught at the death of his wife, attempts to shoot Nullah, but is speared by King George and dies.

form y separately published work icon Chopper Andrew Dominik , ( dir. Andrew Dominik ) Australia : Pariah Films , 2000 Z1361008 2000 single work film/TV crime (taught in 5 units) Based on Mark 'Chopper' Read's autobiography, Chopper is an exploration of the life and complex psyche of a vicious thug who resorts to violence in an instant but can just as easily be filled with remorse. The narrative begins in 1991 with Read in gaol and then shifts back in time to Pentridge Prison in 1978. It was then that Read established his reputation in jail by stabbing Keithy George, a member of the much-feared criminal gang associated with the Victorian Painters and Dockers Union, and also by getting some fellow inmates to cut off his ears (why Read did this is unclear as he provides at two different reasons in his books). 'Chopper' is later stabbed by his best mate, Jimmy Loughnan, who is attempting to fulfil a contract to kill him. When 'Chopper' is eventually freed in 1985, he moves back home to live with his dad but becomes paranoid, not only because of the large quantities of speed he's consuming but also because he's become a police informant. He shoots a drug dealer called 'The Turk' outside a nightclub in St Kilda, but the police refuse to believe him, and later shoots an old drug-dealing associate, only to drive his victim to hospital. He also later threatens his old mate Jimmy Loughnan with a gun, then apologises. Although Read is eventually arrested for the murder of 'The Turk,' he is acquitted but given a five-year sentence for other offences. The narrative then returns to 1991, by which time Read has sold 250,000 copies of his first book, From the Inside, and become a celebrity.
form y separately published work icon Head On Andrew Bovell , Ana Kokkinos , Mira Robertson , ( dir. Ana Kokkinos ) Australia : Head On Productions , 1998 Z796585 1998 single work film/TV (taught in 6 units)

Set over the course of one night, Head On focuses on Ari, a handsome nineteen-year-old boy of Greek descent who finds himself torn between his traditional upbringing and his sexual identity. As he attempts to come to terms with where he fits in, Ari careens between hanging out with his friends and bickering with his family while also becoming involved in several heterosexual and homosexual encounters.

form y separately published work icon Ten Canoes Rolf De Heer , ( dir. Rolf De Heer ) Australia : Fandango Australia Vertigo Productions , 2006 Z1262398 2006 single work film/TV (taught in 11 units)

A story within a story and overlaid with narration, Ten Canoes takes place in two periods in the past. The first story, filmed in black-and-white as a reference to the 1930s ethnographic photography of Donald Thompson, concerns a young man called Dayindi who takes part in his first hunt for goose eggs. During the course of several trips to hunt, gather and build a bark canoe, his older brother Minygululu tells him a story about their ancestors and the old laws. The story is also about a young man who had no wife but who coveted one of his brother's wives, and also of the stranger who disrupted the harmony of their lives. It is cautionary tale because Minygululu is aware that Dayinidi desires his young and pretty third wife.

The second story (shot in colour) is set much further back in time. Yeeralparil is a young man who desires the third wife of his older brother Ridjimiraril. When Ridjimiraril's second wife disappears, he suspects a man from another tribe has been seen near the camp. After he spears the stranger he discovers that he was wrong. Knowing that he must face the man's relatives he chooses Yeeralparil to accompany him during the ritual payback. When Ridjimiraril dies from his wounds the tribe's traditions decree that Yeeralparil must inherit his brother's wives. The burden of these responsibilities, however, is more than the young man expects.

form y separately published work icon Night Cries : A Rural Tragedy Tracey Moffatt , Jimmy Little (composer), ( dir. Tracey Moffatt ) Alice Springs : Chili Films , 1989 Z142554 1989 single work film/TV (taught in 12 units)

A middle-aged Aboriginal woman nurses her old white mother. During her tending of the old woman, she expresses her frustrations and previously suppressed anger, her own need for warmth and love, and her personal loneliness. Her memories and dreams invade her nerve-fraying routine until the old woman dies and she begins to experience an immense sense of loss.

In the ABC Radio National program, It's Not A Race in May 2017, Marcia Langton notes that Night Cries is the retelling of Jedda as a horror story.

form y separately published work icon Gallipoli David Williamson , ( dir. Peter Weir ) Sydney : Associated R & R Films , 1981 Z948654 1981 single work film/TV (taught in 11 units)

The narrative begins in Western Australia in 1915 and follows the paths of Archie Hamilton and Frank Dunne, before and after their enlistment in the Australian Imperial Forces. Hamilton is the patriotic son of a grazier and Frank Dunne is a drifter with no great desire to fight for the British Empire. They meet as runners in an outback footrace and become best mates. After training in Egypt, they land at Gallipoli, just as the great Allied assaults of August 1915 are to begin.

Source: Australian Screen.

form y separately published work icon The Adventures of Barry McKenzie Barry Humphries , Bruce Beresford , ( dir. Bruce Beresford ) Sydney : Longford Productions , 1972 Z400738 1972 single work film/TV humour satire (taught in 2 units)

After he comes into a small inheritance, Barry McKenzie (aka Bazza) decides to visit England with his aunt, which leads to many humerus and some not-so-humorous incidents with Poms from all persuasions and classes. As Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper note: 'The narrative offers a 'vigorous parody of the Australian "ocker," anti-intellectual, xenophobic, obsessed with beer and sex but never capable of relating positively with women, using a vernacular of prodigious vulgarity and inventiveness, and totally oblivious of anything beyond his own narrow conception of the order of things' (1980, p. 340).

form y separately published work icon The Kid Stakes Tal Ordell , ( dir. Tal Ordell ) Australia : Ordell-Coyle Productions , 1927 Z1619164 1927 single work film/TV (taught in 1 units)

Fatty Finn is the scruffy six-year-old leader of a gang of kids in the dockside suburb of Woolloomooloo in Sydney. When Fatty enters his pet goat Hector in a local goat race, his rival Bruiser Murphy does his best to make sure that Hector won't win. He manages to let Hector loose in the grounds of a Potts Point mansion, where he eats a large portion of the prize garden. The owner locks the goat up, so Fatty and his gang sign an oath in blood to bust Hector out. With no time to get to the races, Fatty persuades a friendly aviator to fly Hector to the race track . After arriving just in time, Hector wins his heat and lines up against the other finalists, including Bruiser Murphy's goat Stonker.

[Source: Australian Screen]

form y separately published work icon Jedda Jedda The Uncivilised Charles Chauvel , Elsa Chauvel , ( dir. Charles Chauvel ) Australia : Charles Chauvel Productions , 1955 Z1382736 1955 single work film/TV (taught in 13 units)

'On a lonely cattle station in the Northern Territory, a newly born Aboriginal baby is adopted by a white woman in place of her own child who has died. The child is raised as a white child and forbidden any contact with the Aborigines on the station. Years later, Jedda is drawn by the mysteries of the Aboriginal people but restrained by her upbringing. Eventually she is fascinated by a full-blood Aboriginal, Marbuck, who arrives at the station seeking work and is drawn to his campfire by his song. He takes her away as his captive and returns to his tribal lands, but he is rejected by his tribe for having broken their marriage taboos. Pursued by the men from Jedda's station and haunted by the death wish of his own tribe, Marbuck is driven insane and finally falls, with Jedda, over a cliff.'

(Synopsis from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School website,

form y separately published work icon They're a Weird Mob Sono Strana Gente Richard Imrie , ( dir. Michael Powell ) United Kingdom (UK) Australia : Williamson-Powell International , 1966 Z553582 1966 single work film/TV humour (taught in 6 units)

Italian sports journalist Nino Culotta is lured to Sydney during the mid-1960s to work for his brother's new magazine for migrant Italians. When he arrives in the country, however, Nino finds out that there is no magazine and that his brother has taken off with the investors' cash. Left in the lurch is his brother's business partner, Kay Kelly. Nino vows to pay off his brother's debt and gets a job as a builder's labourer. In doing so, he learns how to talk, act, and drink like an Australian male. His numerous attempts to woo Kay are repeatedly rebuffed with humorous results, but in the end she falls in love with him. Nino's introduction to the country and its culture finds him bemused but ultimately confident that he has a future here.

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image suggests this film is 'very much a product of the assimilationist view dominating Australian immigration policy at the time'.

Forty Thousand Horsemen (film)!$!Charles Chauvel, Dir.!$! !$!!$!1941
The Story of the Kelly Gang (film fragment)!$!Charles Tait, Dir.!$! !$!!$!1906


Module outline

This module gives you an overview of feature film-making in Australia, from its advent and success in the silent era to global mega-products of recent years. One film is screened before discussion and in the interest of giving intensive insight into Australian cinema, additional films are regularly recommended for viewing out of class. These will be made readily available to youmany you may have already viewedand they are included to provide a cinematic context for discussing the focus film.

Discussion will regularly centre on the representation of Australian Aboriginality in Australian cinema; the module also charts a chronological development from films made by white personnel about Indigenous peoples to films by Indigenous directors, or by non-Indigenous directors working in close collaboration with Indigenous film-makers, actors, and communities, addressing questions of Indigeneity and Australian-ness in a newly complex and politically astute manner.

The module will equip you to identify and analyse the themes that have preoccupied film-makers in Australia and to research the economic, social, political and cultural contexts that conditioned the production of Australian film throughout the 20th and into the present century.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course you will:

* be familiarised with a range of films produced in Australia from the silent period to the present

* be equipped with skills to recognise and analyse issues arising from the conflict of Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures in Australia

* have entered into discussion about the different production arrangements for films in Australia during the 20th century

* be enabled to conduct research on Australian film

You will be expected to

* show an ability to introduce and debate complex issues in small group discussion

* synthesise material

* assess the merits of contrasting interpretations

* communicate ideas with clarity and coherence

* develop a reasoned argument

* prepare written work to a prescribed style sheet and to a deadline

* work autonomously and with others

* reflect on personal learning and respond productively to constructive feedback


This module is assessed by one 5000-word essay. In Week 10 please bring to the seminar an essay proposal. This should include entries under the following subheadings: question to be answered; texts you will focus on; (rough) proposal of how you will answer the question (including what libraries you will visit); a working bibliography. This work will not be assessed but will form the basis of your individual essay consultation.

Supplementary Texts

Raymond Longford, Dir., The Sentimental Bloke (1919);

Raymond Longford, Dir., On Our Selection (1920);

Peter Weir, Dir., Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975);

Gillian Armstrong, Dir., My Brilliant Career (1979);

Charles Chauvel, Dir., Uncivilised (1936);

Nicholas Roeg, Dir., Walkabout (1971);

Phillip Noyce, Dir., Rabbit Proof Fence (2002);

Molly Reynolds, Tania Nehme, and Rolf de Heer, Dirs, Balanda and the Bark Canoes (2006);

Ivan Sen, Dir., Beneath Clouds (2002);

Rachel Perkins, Dir., Radiance (1998);

Stephan Elliott, Dir., The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1993);

P. J. Hogan, Dir., Muriels Wedding (1994);

George Miller, Dir., Mad Max (1979);

David Twohy, Dir., Pitch Black (2000);

Larry Wachowski, Dir., The Matrix (1999);

Baz Luhrmann, Dir., Strictly Ballroom (1992);

Baz Luhrmann, Dir., Moulin Rouge (2001)

Other Details

Levels: Postgraduate