'The picture is an exceedingly interesting one right from the opening scene, where Constable Fitzpatrick arrives with a warrant for the arrest of Dan Kelly, then to the police camp, which is captured by the Kellys, the sticking-up of Younghusband's station, robbing the bank at Euroa, destroying the railway line, and finally to the capture of Ned Kelly in his suit of armour.'
[Source: 'The Story of the Kelly Gang', The Register, 29 December 1906, p.4.]
Adapted by Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell from C. J. Dennis's collection of poems (The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke), the story concerns Bill ('the bloke'), a Sydney larrikin who vows to abandon his life of gambling and drinking when he falls in love with Doreen (who works in a pickle factory). His reformation comes about after he has been released from gaol, having been convicted of assaulting a policeman ('stoushing a John') during a raid on a two-up game.
Based on Marcus Clarke's classic novel, originally published in 1870 as His Natural Life, the story tells of convict Rufus Dawes, who has been wrongfully accused of a crime and sent to the penal colony of Van Diemen's Land for the term of his natural life. In his attempts to escape the colony, Dawes falls in love with Sylvia (a warden's daughter) and confronts his sinister lookalike John Rex and the evil convict Gabbett.
American director/screenwriter Norman Dawn's adaptation strays from the original book considerably. For example, the ending sees the fate of Rufus and Sylvia, adrift on a raft in the ocean, left in the balance, whereas Clarke's original story has the pair drown. However, the film retains a strong, visual style, especially in climactic crowd scenes.
The first of two docudramas by Charles Chauvel (the other is Heritage), In the Wake of the Bounty retells the story of the mutiny led by Fletcher Christian in 1789 against William Bligh, depicting the fate of the mutineers on Tahiti and Pitcairnis. Presented as part narrative and part travelogue, the film uses introductory enacted scenes showing the mutiny, followed by documentary footage, anthropological style, of the mutineers' descendants on Pitcairn Island (including Polynesian women dancers) and an underwater shipwreck.
'The main thread of the story is made the history of two families. James Morrison is a stalwart teamster of the early days, who is somewhat irresponsible in his romantic adventures. He is engaged to marry Jane Judd. When a cargo of girls arrives in Sydney he meets Biddy, a sweet little Irish girl, whom he decides to marry. He goes back to the country to tell Jane all about it, but circumstances force him into marrying Jane against his inclinations. The foresaken [sic] Biddy also marries. She and her husband are speared by blacks, and Morrison, who has ridden to their rescue; is given custody of the infant son by the dying Biddy. The Morrisons bring up Biddy's son with their own. The two infants establish families, and the picture closes with the grant-grandson [sic] of one marrying the great-granddaughter of the other, and both families are united in the pioneering of Northern Australia.'
'Pictures of the Week', The Australasian, 1 June 1935, p.17.
Australia's only fully war-time feature, The Rats of Tobruk focuses on three friends who are cattle droving in the outback just before the outbreak of World War II. By 1941, restless Bluey Donkin, easy-going Milo Trent, and Shakespeare-quoting Englishman Peter Linton have decided to join the Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.) and later find themselves in North Africa fighting Rommel's army.
After early successes against the Italian army, the Australian 9th Division finds itself besieged in Tobruk. When not fighting, the men have comic encounters with a barber, while Peter falls for a nurse, Sister Mary, after being wounded. The other two men are also later wounded, but it is Peter who is eventually killed just before the others are able to repel the enemy. Bluey and Milo are then later transferred to New Guinea, where Bluey is injured and Milo killed by a sniper. Bluey manages to kill the sniper.
A romance subplot occurs between Bluey (who prior to leaving Australia was not prepared to settle down with any woman) and the daughter of a squatter, Kate, who is in love with him. When Bluey finally returns home, he and Kate are united.
'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, http://library.aftrs.edu.au)
Set in Australia near the beginning of the Second World War, a time when much of the country was in fear of an impending Japanese invasion. This fear caused many Northern Territory inhabitants to begin evacuating, in order to escape being taken prisoner, and to burn everything in a 'scorched earth' policy, in order to leave the invading forces without resources. Rather than kill all their cattle, a disparate group decides to drive them overland halfway across the continent.
The Overlanders is a story that emphasises the Australian spirit in a time of great uncertainty. It recreates the hazards of an epic cattle drive and carefully assembles the mannerisms, vocabulary, and attitudes that characterise the Australian bushman. The story also reinforces the resilience and strength of women, particularly through the character of Mary Parsons. In this respect, it carries on the tradition of the bush heroine established in Australian films of the twenties and thirties.
Smiley Greevins is a cheeky, mischievous and imaginative little boy who lives in the small Australian country town of Murrumbilla. His alcoholic father, Bill is a poor drover who is often away for long periods while his mother, overworked and embittered by her life, is the one who has to deal with Smiley's frequent misadventures. One of these pranks sees Smiley and his friend Joey run foul of the local policeman, Sgt Flaxman. Amused by the careful attention the sergeant is paying their new schoolteacher, Miss Workman, the boys initially enjoy viewing this budding romance from a safe distance. When Flaxman one day escorts Miss Workman to her house, however, Smiley borrows his police bicycle. When he accidentally crashes the bike Smiley and Joey quickly replace it from where they took it and flee the scene.
Determined to buy his own bike Smiley subsequently takes on odd jobs to raise the money for his dream, but in doing so unwittingly helps the local publican, Rankin to sell opium to the local Aborigines. When Smiley's father returns home and steals all the money he has saved Smiley is furious. He confronts his father and in the ensuing argument unintentionally knocks his dad out with a cricket bat. Frightened of the consequences he runs into the bush and is later bitten by a snake. A swagman saves his life and when Smiley gets back to town he tells the police about Rankin, who is subsequently arrested. The story ends with the grateful townsfolk rallying together to buy Smiley his bike.
Regarded as one of Australia's most successful and affectionately remembered documentaries, The Back of Beyond follows mailman Tom Kruse as he makes his fortnightly deliveries along the Birdsville Track. The theme explored is very much that of the ability of Australians to adapt to the harshness of the central Australian outback.
Instead of the typical documentary film's 'single voice of authority,' Back of Beyond's narration is provided by several storytellers representative of the voices of the outback. These people include Kruse, the women on the two-way radio, Malcolm (an Aboriginal man), and the Birdsville policeman.
Adapted from James Vance Marshall's novel The Children, Walkabout begins with a father-of-two driving his fourteen-year-old daughter and six-year-old son into the desert. Overwhelmed by the pressure on his life, he plans to kill them and then commit suicide, but his plan goes wrong. The siblings wander the desert aimlessly until they meet a young Aboriginal boy who is on a solitary walkabout as part of his tribal initiation into manhood. The three become travelling companions. Gradually, sexual tension develops between the girl and the Aboriginal boy. When they approach white civilisation, the Aboriginal boy dances a night-long courtship dance, but the girl is ignorant of its meaning. When she and her brother awake in the morning, they find the boy dead, hanging from a tree. The brother and sister make their way to the nearby mining town, where they receive a cool welcome from the townsfolk.
John Grant, a young Englishman, teaches in Tiboonda, a tiny railway junction on the far western plains of New South Wales. He sets off to spend his summer vacation in Sydney but doesn't make it beyond Bundanyabba, a nearby mining town known as 'the Yabba'. Stranded in town after losing all his money in a two-up game, he finds himself engulfed by the Yabba's claustrophobic, nightmarish, beer-fuelled stupor, an atmosphere compounded of repressed sexuality, squalid violence, and the sinister mateship of the locals. After being sexually assaulted by the town's alcoholic doctor, he attempts to hitchhike out of the town but is brought back by a truckie. In anger, he tries to shoot the doctor but ends up only shooting himself. After discharging himself from the hospital, Grant takes the train back to Tiboonda, resigned to another year of teaching.
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).
Set in 1956 on an outback sheep station, the narrative explores the life of the old-time shearers: sweat-soaked days and rum-soaked nights, bloody two-fisted punch ups ... and the scab labour brought in during the shearers' strike of 1956. Central to the main storyline is Foley, a gun shearer who has been unbeaten in the tally for ten years, but who now arrives at the station aware that his days as the fastest shearer are now numbered.
Based on the autobiography of a woman (otherwise unidentified in the text) who worked as a housekeeper for the writers Dymphna Cusack and Florence James, Caddie is set in Sydney between the mid-1920s and the early 1930s. The narrative concerns a respectable woman from the suburbs who walks out on her unfaithful husband. With no money and two children to feed, she takes a job as a barmaid. Having never been in a pub in her life, Caddie is confronted with the horrors of the 'six o'clock swill', as desperate men cling to the bar, vomiting and urinating where they stand, rather than lose their place. She eventually learns the trade with help from fellow barmaid Josie (Jacki Weaver), while learning also about the people and lifestyles of those who inhabit the inner-city districts. Following a brief and disastrous affair with Ted, an SP bookmaker, she falls in love with Peter, a charming and sophisticated Greek immigrant, who is also still married. When Peter is called back to Greece as the effects of the Depression increase, he promises to return as soon as he can. Caddie, in the meantime, finds herself alone, without a job or the money to feed her children.
Based on real events that occurred in Australia at the turn of the century and adapted from Thomas Keneally's novel, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith concerns a young man of Aboriginal and European heritage who has been raised by missionaries. A hard and reliable worker, Jimmie is employed on a property in central-western New South Wales. Hoping to achieve assimiliation into white society, Jimmy marries a white girl, but instead this only increases the loathing and ridicule directed at him. In the winter of 1900, an argument ensues between Jimmy and the owner of the property, which leads to Jimmie and his uncle horrifically killing most of the man's family. Jimmie subsequently takes to the bush with his wife, baby, and younger brother, Mort. Pursued by the police and vigilante farmers, Jimmie sends his wife back with a message: 'tell them I've declared war.' He and Mort kill again, but the younger brother becomes increasingly troubled by their actions. Jimmie eventually goes on alone until his inevitable capture and hanging.
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.
In a post-apocalyptic Australia, law and order has begun to break down due to energy shortages, despite the efforts of Main Force Patrol (MFP) officers like Max Rockatansky. After Rockatansky encounters Toecutter's motorcycle gang, who are running runshod over isolated communities, he grows disillusioned with his role in the MFP. At first convinced by his superior officer not to resign, he is driven into a state of cold-blooded revenge when Toecutter's gang murder his wife and young son.
In this sequel to the original Mad Max, Max finds himself involved with a small group of settlers who live around a small working oil refinery, producing that most precious of products in a post-apocalyptic society: petrol.
Hando and his best mate Davey are the leaders of a gang of neo-Nazi skinheads in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray during the 1980s. Living off the dole, they inhabit a disused tyre shop draped with Nazi flags. When Gabe, who is running from a sexually abusive relationship with her rich father, becomes Hando's girlfriend and joins the gang, she inadvertently creates tension, because Davey is also attracted to her. After beating up a Vietnamese youth, the skinheads are forced to escape to a disused warehouse when his friends retaliate. It's here that Hando plots his revenge. Gabe pursues her own vengeance, by leading the gang to her father's house. When Hando kicks her out, she gets even by telling the police where the skinheads are hiding. Hando, Davey, and a recalcitrant Gabe subsequently take to the road.
(Source: Australian Screen)
Muriel is a shy young woman living in the seaside resort of Porpoise Spit, a suburban wonderland of shopping malls, marine parks, and holiday homes. The excessive expectations of her 'friends' and family cause her to take refuge in a dreamworld of ABBA songs. She also dreams of a Prince Charming who will rescue her from her dull and boring life. Then one day, she steals some money and goes on a tropical vacation where she meets a wacky friend, changes her name to Mariel, and turns her entire world upside down.
A light-hearted look at the politics and intrigue of competitive ballroom dancing, the storyline focuses on Scott Hastings, who, his ambitious mother Shirley believes, will become champion with his current partner Liz. When Scott tries to introduce his own steps into their routine (against Pan-Pacific Championship rules), Liz leaves him for a rival partner. Without a partner, Scott eventually agrees to dance with Fran, a shy student at the academy run by his mother. When he meets her father and grandmother, Scott leans how to put passion into his movements, especially through the paso doble. In a last ditch effort to see her son become the Pan-Pacific Champion, Shirley convinces him to partner Tina Sparkle, which he reluctantly does. When he finally realises what he has done, he implores Fran to partner him. When they are disqualified from the competition, the audience (led by Scott's father, Barry) gives them a standing ovation and Scott and Fran go on to perform their version of the paso doble.
[Source: Australian Screen]
Radiance tells the story of three women who reunite, after many years apart, for their mother's funeral.
Based on real life events that occurred in 1931, Rabbit-Proof Fence is the story of three mixed-race Aboriginal children who are forcibly abducted from their mothers by the Western Australian government. Molly (aged fourteen), her sister Daisy (aged eight), and their cousin Gracie (aged ten) are taken from their homes at Jigalong, situated in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, at the orders of the Protector of Aborigines, A.O. Neville, and sent to an institution at Moore River to be educated and trained as domestic servants. After a few days, Molly leads the other two girls in an escape. What ensues is an epic journey that tests the girls' will to survive and their hope of finding the rabbit-proof fence to guide them home.
Although they are pursued by the institution's Aboriginal tracker and the police, Molly knows enough about bush craft to help them hide their tracks. They head east in search of the world's longest fence - built to keep rabbits out - because Molly knows that this will lead them back to Jigalong. Over the course of nine weeks, the girls walk almost 2,400 kilometres before Gracie is captured attempting to catch a train. Molly and Daisy avoid capture but eventually collapse from exhaustion on the saltpans not far from Jigalong. When they wake, they see the spirit bird, an eagle, flying overhead. Its significance gives the girls the extra energy they need and they are able to make it back to their home.
'A set of mountain ranges in the outback, 1922 ... horseback country, and the Fanatic leads the two other white men, the Follower and the Philosopher, and the Tracker, in the pursuit of the Fugitive. Through massacre and murder the hunt continues, until the clear-cut notions of truth and justice are subverted and the questions become not will the Fugitive be caught, but what is black and what is white and who is leading whom?'
Source: Screen Australia.
Inspired in part by Melbourne's 1988 Walsh Street murders, Animal Kingdom is a story about the battle between Melbourne's underworld and the police. The story tracks seventeen-year-old Joshua 'J' Cody, a troubled teenager perilously caught between his own criminal family and Detective Leckie, a compromised cop who thinks that he can save 'J'. 'J' comes to realise that in order to survive, he must determine how the game is played. This involves not only writing his own rule book but also choosing his place in the cunning and brutal animal kingdom in which his family lives.
Based on the stage musical of the same name by Jimmy Chi and the band Kuckles, Bran Nue Dae is set in 1969 and follows Willie, a young man who struggles to find a balance between the three things that drive his life: his love for his girl Rosie, his respect for his mother, and his religious faith. Willie's uncomplicated life of fishing and hanging out with his mates and his girl in the idyllic world of Broome is turned upside down when his mother returns him to the religious mission for further schooling and entry into the priesthood. After being punished for an act of youthful rebellion, he runs away from the mission on a journey that leads him to meet his 'Uncle Tadpole' and eventually return to Broome. Along the way, Willie and Uncle Tadpole meet a couple of hippies, spend the night in gaol, and meet a gun-toting roadhouse operator, while managing to stay one step ahead of Father Benedictus, who wants to bring Willie back to the mission.
'Samson and Delilah tells the story of two Aboriginal teenagers in a remote community. They live in a sparse environment but one that absorbs all manner of cultural influences, where dot painting and country music exist side by side. Samson gets through his days by sniffing, while Delilah is the caregiver for her nana before taking a moment for herself to listen to Latino music. Their journey ranges across many of the most urgent issues concerning Indigenous people in Australia, homelessness, poverty, domestic violence and substance abuse, but it does so with tenderness, dignity, and even humour.'
Source: Adelaide Film Festival website, www.adelaidefilmfestival.org/ Sighted: 23/02/2009
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.
From The Story of the Ned Kelly Gang and The Sentimental Bloke to Australia and Bran Nue Dae, this course explores Australian film within the changing contexts of history, audience, industry structure, and technology, from the silent era to the present. By employing techniques of both historical analysis and screen studies, the course aims to give a broad grasp of the way film reflects Australian society and history. You will develop analytical skills in, and theoretical comprehension of, film history and filmic techniques which influenced that history, over the duration of the course.