Down Under Flix was created to show love, shine light, and where necessary throw shade on obscure, forgotten, neglected, or under-appreciated Australian films, but I find myself increasingly struggling with the question of what constitutes an obscure, forgotten, neglected, or under-appreciated local film. Obviously some films are clearly immune from this category: Crocodile Dundee, for instance, does not and will never need my help. However, Breaker Morant, on the surface a critically revered and widely liked Australian classic, has by its own director’s admission barely made a dime. What, then, of films like Bran Nue Dae and The Sapphires? Both films were liked by critics and audiences. Bran Nue Dae scored 6 Australian Film Institute Award nominations including Best Film and scored Best Supporting Actress for Deborah Mailman, while The Sapphires swept the board winning 11 gongs, including Best Film, Director, Actor, and Actress (Mailman again). Bran Nue Dae earned almost $7.7 million at the local box office and ranks 42nd on the list of most successful Australian releases, while The Sapphires earned over $14.5 million and ranks 19th on that list. Having said that, last year Star Wars: The Last Jedi earned $45 million at the Australian box office – over twice as much as Bran Nue Dae and The Sapphires combined – with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Beauty and the Beast on its tail with $37.5 and $36.3 million respectively. In other cold, hard words, while Bran Nue Dae might have been popular, five times more Australians went to see a Disney live action remake of an animated film they’d probably already seen.
Continue reading “Double Bill: Bran Nue Dae (2009) and The Sapphires (2012)”
Director: John Honey
Stars: Mawuyul Yanthalawuy, Anna Ralph, Phillip Hinton, Elaine Mangan
First viewing, via DVD
When Down Under Flix surveyed readers on their Australian film viewing habits last year, 1980’s Manganinnie was the least seen film about Indigenous Australians (98%) and tied with 2003’s Subterano (also 98%) as the least seen film of the survey. But where sci-fi chiller Subterano arguably never made a dent in the first place, Manganinnie was the first production (of just two, alas) of the Tasmanian Film Corporation, was nominated for five AFI Awards including Best Film, Director, and Actress, and made a modest profit. However, the film has been somewhat forgotten, dwarfed in the popular consciousness by other releases of its era such as My Brilliant Career, Mad Max, and Breaker Morant, films that are outwardly more stylish and accessible.
Continue reading “Manganinnie (1980) and Blackfellas (1993)”
Director: Bruce Beresford
Stars: Kristina Nehm. Kylie Belling, Justine Saunders, Bob Maza
First viewing, via DVD
Bruce Beresford is undisputedly one of the great Australian filmmakers. Between 1972 and 1981, he helped usher in and worked at the coalface of the Australian film renaissance, helming a succession of classics and quasi-classics. The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, Don’s Party, The Getting of Wisdom, Breaker Morant, The Club, and Puberty Blues all bear his name as director, and together constitute a remarkable straddling of genres and high/low art divides, from the broad ocker fare of the McKenzie films (which repulsed the cultural elite but still managed to net a Gough Whitlam cameo) to the earnest heritage drama of The Getting of Wisdom. He adapted Australia’s most topical playwright (David Williamson) twice, helped popularize our greatest dame (Edna Everage), and tackled politics (Don’s Party), adolescence (Puberty Blues), sports culture and commerce (The Club), and Australian-British historical relations and colonial identity (Breaker Morant). Beresford’s subsequent career has alternated between overseas films, including the Academy Award-winning Driving Miss Daisy, and a handful of Australian productions & co-productions including this week’s film The Fringe Dwellers, Black Robe, Paradise Road, and Mao’s Last Dancer.
Continue reading “The Fringe Dwellers (1986)”
Director: Nick Parsons
Stars: Bryan Brown, Ernie Dingo, Aaron Pedersen, Angie Milliken
Second viewing, via VHS
I first watched Dead Heart back in 2000, as part of a course at university. In recent days I’ve been thinking back on all the other Australian films I studied at university (in a degree comprising various screen and literature courses, including one specifically on Australian cinema, there were quite a few) and pondering where those films have landed, culturally speaking, in subsequent years. Wake in Fright, which we watched on a scratchy, dog-eared print, has enjoyed a critical and cultural resurgence in recent years and is soon to be adapted for television by the director of Red Dog. Other films, such as A Sunday Too Far Away and Two Hands, have sort of plateaued, remaining constant in their standing. And others like Dead Heart, then only a few years old, have faded from the spotlight and aren’t really part of the cultural conversation. In this particular case, it’s a shame, because Dead Heart is an excellent flick.
Continue reading “Dead Heart (1996)”