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	Image: Still from Wake in fright

Film series: Brought to light

Troublemakers, boat-rockers, trailblazers and whistleblowers

It was probably the world’s first full-length feature film in 1906: The story of the Kelly gang. Australian cinema thrived during the silent era but the industry went into decline in the late 1920s as ever-expanding US and British production companies took over distribution and exhibition, often excluding Australian product from local cinemas. By the end of the 1960s, Australia had virtually no feature film production. The intervention of the Gorton and Whitlam governments in the early 1970s rescued the industry from oblivion. Taking advantage of this re-invigorated production climate, a new breed of independent filmmakers sought to reflect the complexity of history, thought and culture in Australia.

Screening in conjunction with the exhibition The photograph and Australia, the documentaries and feature films in this series sought to raise questions, redress gaps in recorded history, bring uncomfortable truths to the fore, register social change and depict contemporary realities. They cast a new light on the historical events, people and ideas that shaped Australia’s history during the 20th century.

Image: Still from Wake in fright

Various Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays
29 March - 3 June 2015
See listing for details

Free

Films start at the advertised time. Doors open 30 minutes before. Tickets are issued at the Domain Theatre one hour before. Latecomers not admitted.

This is a specialist program designed for mature audiences and is generally not suitable for children under the age of 15. We cannot admit anyone under the age of 18 to films with an R classification or without classification. Babes in arms not permitted. All pagers and mobile phones must be switched off. It is a condition of entry that behaviour does not disturb other audience members.


Location: Domain Theatre

Related exhibition: The photograph and Australia

 
National Film & Sound Archive

Faces 1976–1996 / Nice coloured girls / Night cries

Faces 1976–1996
Dir: Sue Ford 1976–96 (Aust)
14 mins 16mm B&W Unclassified
What is 20 years to the human face and spirit? Faces 1976–1996 is a short film made by the celebrated Australian artist Sue Ford. Featured in the exhibition The photograph and Australia, Ford’s groundbreaking work appeared in the context of the 1970s feminist movement. She regularly took pictures of friends, family and herself for social and political motives. In the mid 1970s Ford questioned what would happen if a photographic portrait was extended beyond the usual split-second camera shutter exposure? Would the subject’s confidence and composure slip if the exposure was pushed to 30 seconds using motion–picture technology? The resulting 1976 version of this film experiment became a classic, and in 1996 Ford decided to contact the original subjects and repeat the process. The outcome is a haunting series of portraits, each spanning two decades.

Nice coloured girls
Dir: Tracey Moffatt 1987 (Aust)
17 mins 16mm Colour Unclassified
Released in 1987, Tracey Moffatt’s experimental short countered orthodox histories of colonial race and gender relations. These had typically depicted Indigenous people as passive and powerless. Contrasting relationships between Aboriginal women and white men, past and present, the narrative focuses on three women who cruise the night-world of Sydney’s Kings Cross, looking to pick up a drunken white man to exploit to their advantage. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

Night cries
Dir: Tracey Moffatt 1990 (Aust)
17 mins 35mm Colour Unclassified
Marcia Langton, Agnes Hardwick
Charles Chauvel’s 1955 film Jedda is a point of departure for Tracey Moffatt’s experimental narrative focusing on a mother–daughter relationship transposed into the context of white–Aboriginal relations. The characters of the white mother and the black daughter in the Chauvel film are revisited 40 years on. The simmering drama of love–hate and loneliness unfolds in a deliberately artificial studio setting which recalls paintings of the Hermannsburg school, particularly Albert Namatjira. Moffatt’s photographic work also features in the exhibition The photograph and Australia.

 

Sunday 29 March 2015 2pm – 2:50pm

Camera natura / Wild

Camera natura
Dir: Ross Gibson 1985 (Aust)
32 mins 16mm Colour Unclassified
Ross Gibson’s documentary essay proposes an evocative critique of Australian cultural history by concentrating on the manner in which the landscape has been portrayed in the myths, maps, painting, writing, photography and cinema devised by white Australians. Juxtaposing 'found’ images with excerpts from written texts, Gibson traces the changing representations of the continent over 200 years: from the anguish of the convict painter Thomas Watling to the technologies of the cinema. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

Wild
Dir: Ross Gibson 1992 (Aust)
56 mins 16mm Colour Unclassified
Wild examines the impact that European civilisation has had on the Australian environment. As a focus, it settles on the Pilliga forest region in NSW and the work of Eric Rolls who chronicles the destruction of native lands by white incursions and insensibilities to the delicate ecosystem. As a contrast, the Aboriginal community is shown to have lived in relative harmony with their surroundings because of their attachment to the land – not in an economic way as is characteristic of Europeans, but in a spiritual sense, which brings with it a greater care and concern with the life of the forest. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

There will be an interval of about 10 minutes between these two films.

 

Sunday 29 March 2015 3pm – 4:38pm

Lousy little sixpence

Dir: Alec Morgan 1983 (Aust)
55 mins 16mm Colour Unclassified
In 1909, the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board began to break up Aboriginal communities, forcibly removing children and hiring them out as servants. Ostensibly paid sixpence per week for their services, many of these indentured workers never saw even this token amount. In the 1930sm Aboriginal people began to rally to fight the Protection Board, forcing the NSW government to change its policy. The injustices exposed in Lousy little sixpence caused shock and disbelief when the documentary was first screened. Moving interviews with Aboriginal elders are illustrated with historical film footage and rarely seen photographs. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

 

Wednesday 1 April 2015 2pm – 2:55pm

My survival as an Aboriginal

Dir: Essie Coffey 1978 (Aust)
51 mins 16mm Colour Unclassified
In 1978, this groundbreaking, very personal documentary rocked Australia with its presentation of the hardships of Aboriginal people living in West Brewarrina, or 'Dodge City’, in north–west NSW. Conceived by black activist and musician Essie Coffey, winning prizes around the globe, it was the first Australian film to be directed by an Indigenous woman. Coffey decided how she and her community would be represented. Proudly passing on knowledge of traditional bush ways, she introduces us to her family, as well as the young Aboriginal children she mentors. A co-founder of the Western Aboriginal Legal Service, Coffey was also an inaugural member of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

This film also screens on 25 April.

 

Wednesday 1 April 2015 3pm – 3:51pm

Ten canoes

Dir: Rolf de Heer, Peter Djigirr 2006 (Aust)
90 mins 35mm Colour/B&W Rated M
Jamie Gulpilil, Frances Djulibing
Narrated by David Gulpilil
Ganalbingu with English subtitles
Receiving a special jury prize at Cannes and six AFI awards, this is the first feature film to be shot in an Australian Indigenous language, Ganalbingu. Filmed in remote Arnhem Land, in consultation with the traditional owners of the Arafura wetlands, the film features an all-Aboriginal cast. It retells a traditional story, a cautionary tale of a younger brother who yearns for his older brother’s wife. Shot in both black-and-white and colour by cinematographer Ian Jones, the film grew out of a conversation between Rolf de Heer and David Gulpilil.

 

Wednesday 1 April 2015 7:15pm – 8:45pm

Sunday 5 April 2015 2pm – 3:30pm

Two laws: a film in four parts

Made by the Borroloola Aboriginal Community with Alessandro Cavadini and Carolyn Strachan 1981 (Aust)
139 mins 16mm Colour Unclassified
Considered a watershed in documentary in 1981, this innovative film examines the Borroloola people’s struggle for the recognition of Aboriginal Law. Members of this community, living in the gulf region of the Northern Territory, collaborated with the filmmakers in determining the form of the film. Decisions regarding subject matter, casting and settings were made within the traditional tribal structure of the community. The result is a film of unique rhythms and pacing. It is told in four parts: Police times is a dramatic re-enactment of white oppression in the 1930s; Welfare times re-enacts life under the welfare system in the 1950s; Struggle for our land describes Aboriginal attachment to the land; and Living with two laws is concerned with the movement back to traditional land and the setting up of cattle outstations. The film represents a high point in groundbreaking documentary films produced in Australia during the 1970s and 1980s. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

 

Saturday 4 April 2015 2pm – 4:19pm

The tracker

Dir: Rolf de Heer 2002 (Aust)
95 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
David Gulpilil, Grant Page, Damon Gamrau, Gary Sweet
In 1922 an Aboriginal tracker (Gulpilil) has the job of leading a four-man expedition into the northern part of the Flinders Ranges in pursuit of a runaway Aboriginal man who is alleged to have murdered a white woman. Using the visual codes and typical character types of the Western – the Veteran (Page), the Follower (Gameau), the Fanatic (Sweet) – director Rolf de Heer challenges audience expectations by substituting a black tracker for the traditionally white hero.

 

Wednesday 8 April 2015 2pm – 3:35pm

Wednesday 8 April 2015 7:15pm – 8:50pm

Sunday 12 April 2015 2pm – 3:35pm

Life in the Antarctic (Home of the blizzard)

Produced by Douglas Mawson, principal photography by Frank Hurley, 1913
68 mins 35mm B&W Unclassified
In 1911, Sydney–based stills photographer Frank Hurley was asked by Douglas Mawson to become the official photographer for the Australian Antarctic Expedition. Life in the Antarctic – or as Hurley called the film, Home of the blizzard – documents the activities of Mawson and his party during the period December 1911 to March 1913. It shows the team’s departure from Hobart, Tasmania, aboard the vessel Aurora, wildlife at Macquarie Island and Cape Denison on the coast of Adélie Land, and the treacherous trip to the South Magnetic Pole. Hurley’s final scene in the film of Mawson, Belgrave Ninnis and Xavier Mertz seeking warmth in their reindeer sleeping bags was to be prophetic. Both Ninnis and Mertz were to perish on Mawson’s trek to the eastern coastline. Hurley hastily returned to Australia and assembled the film, printed without titles or captions, to raise finances for Mawson’s return. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

 

Saturday 11 April 2015 2pm – 3:08pm

Sunday too far away

Dir: Ken Hannam 1975 (Aust)
95 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
Jack Thompson, Phyllis Ophel
Ken Hannam’s outback classic marked the emergence of an internationally recognised Australian film industry in 1975. Legendary gun shearer Foley (Thompson) intends to save money and leave shearing for good. He returns to work at a station in outback South Australia where he sparks a combative rivalry with a fellow shearer. Soon a bitter protracted dispute develops with the station owners when the shearers learn that their prosperity bonus will be withdrawn. Set in the period leading up to the nine-month shearers strike of 1955, this was the first Australian feature film to make an authentic portrayal of workers on the job. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

 

Wednesday 15 April 2015 2pm – 3:35pm

Wednesday 15 April 2015 7:15pm – 8:50pm

Sunday 19 April 2015 2pm – 3:35pm

Front line

Dir: David Bradbury 1979 (Aust)
56 mins 16mm Colour Rated PG
This portrait of Australian cameraman Neil Davis is a unique, up-close account of an Australian war correspondent. The Vietnam War was the first major conflict to be seen regularly on television. From 1964 to the fall of Saigon in 1975, Davis’s footage was seen nightly by millions. Covering his work at the frontline, David Bradbury’s film combines interviews with footage shot by Davis. It examines the ethical issues facing a person at the frontline who is not an active combatant. Screened worldwide, it received an Academy Award nomination, and won first prize at the Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals and the Grierson award at the American Film Festival. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

 

Wednesday 22 April 2015 2pm – 2:56pm

Wednesday 22 April 2015 7:15pm – 8:11pm

Sunday 26 April 2015 2pm – 2:56pm

Aeroplane dance

Dir: Trevor Graham 1994
58 mins 16mm Colour Rated PG
On 1 December 1942, during World War II, a US bomber called Little Eva was returning to base after a raid over New Guinea. The plane hit a tropical storm and crashed at Moonlight Creek in the southeast corner of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The events that followed were recorded both in the journal of an American survivor and in a spectacular corroboree created by the Yanyuwa people who searched for Little Eva and her crew. Trevor Graham’s intriguing film brings together these two very different perspectives of the same event, and includes a rare performance of the original corroboree, evoking the Yanyuwa people’s experience of the crash and the ensuing hunt for survivors. A Film Australia National Interest Program.

 

Wednesday 22 April 2015 3pm – 3:58pm

Wednesday 22 April 2015 8:15pm – 9:13pm

Sunday 26 April 2015 3pm – 3:58pm

My survival as an Aboriginal

Dir: Essie Coffey 1978 (Aust)
51 mins 16mm Colour Unclassified
In 1978, this groundbreaking, very personal documentary rocked Australia with its presentation of the hardships of Aboriginal people living in West Brewarrina, or 'Dodge City’, in north–west NSW. Conceived by black activist and musician Essie Coffey, winning prizes around the globe, it was the first Australian film to be directed by an Indigenous woman. Coffey decided how she and her community would be represented. Proudly passing on knowledge of traditional bush ways, she introduces us to her family, as well as the young Aboriginal children she mentors. A co-founder of the Western Aboriginal Legal Service, Coffey was also an inaugural member of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

This film also screens on 1 April.

 

Saturday 25 April 2015 2pm – 2:51pm

Stockman's strategy

Dir: David and Judith MacDougall 1984 (Aust)
54 mins 16mm Colour Unclassified
Structured as a series of episodes, this film explores the philosophy of teaching and learning of Sunny Bancroft, manager of Collum Collum, a cattle station operated by Aboriginal people in northern NSW. Shane Gordon, a 16-year-old apprentice, takes his first step towards becoming a stockman as he draws on Sunny’s guidance, experience and knowledge. Considered by anthropologists to be two of the most significant ethnographic filmmakers in the English-speaking world, David and Judith MacDougall trained in filmmaking at UCLA in the late 1960s and have lived in Australia since 1975. Their remarkable body of work deserves to be better known. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

 

Saturday 25 April 2015 3pm – 3:54pm

Red Matildas

Dir: Sharon Connolly, Trevor Graham 1985 (Aust)
51 mins 16mm Colour Unclassified
Through the lives of three women, May Pennefather, Audrey Blake and Joan Goodwin, Red Matildas explores the social and political conditions in Australia during the Great Depression. Massive unemployment, widespread malnutrition and growing militarism at home and abroad provoked many people to political activity. For these women, the Communist Party was one of the few avenues for agitation then available. The story of their stand against injustice is illustrated with archival film providing a dramatic 'grass roots’ perspective on the turmoil of the Great Depression. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

 

Wednesday 29 April 2015 2pm – 2:51pm

Wednesday 29 April 2015 7:15pm – 8:06pm

Sunday 3 May 2015 2pm – 2:51pm

Green tea and cherry ripe

Dir: Solrun Hoaas 1988 (Aust)
53 mins 16mm Colour Rated G
Solrun Hoaas’s intimate documentary tells the story of six Japanese women who married Australian servicemen after World War II. It reveals their efforts to re-build their lives in Australia and the challenges they faced in an alien land. Their new families wanted them to become Australians, but their new homeland made some of them uneasy and out of place. With resilience as their common trait, their ways and means of coping were as varied as their reasons for marrying. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

 

Wednesday 29 April 2015 3pm – 3:53pm

Wednesday 29 April 2015 8:15pm – 9:08pm

Sunday 3 May 2015 3pm – 3:53pm

Living room / 27A

Living room
Dir: David Caesar 1988 (Aust)
20 mins 35mm Colour Unclassified
A meditation on Australian suburbia and notions of community. Why do people live where they do? Do they have a choice in the way they live? Where do their aspirations come from? What does 'home’ mean? 'In David Caesar’s beautiful and unsettling Living room, a series of people stare into the camera, holding their poses as if for a photograph. Each inhabits a carefully composed frame that invites the eye to take in both subject and environment… These portraits of “ordinary” subjects are at once awkward, intimate and enigmatic, reminiscent of the documentary portraiture of photographers like Richard Avedon and William Eggleston, who Caesar names as influences.’ – Kate Matthews, Australian Screen. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

27A
Dir: Esben Storm 1973 (Aust)
84 mins 35mm Colour Unclassified
Robert McDarra, Bill Hunter
27A was a section of a controversial act that entitled Queensland authorities to hold anyone in a mental hospital indefinitely. In this groundbreaking film, Billy Donald (McDarra) is a middle-aged metho-drinker who finds himself committed. McDarra, himself an alcoholic, won the 1974 AFI Award for his portrait of a man without illusions about himself or those around him. Based on a true story, the film was shot on location at a Christian Brother’s psychiatric hospital. Esben Storm and producer Haydn Keenan, both 21 when they made the film, were influenced by social realist cinema, shooting in a semi-documentary style. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

There will be an interval of about 10 minutes between these two films.

 

Saturday 2 May 2015 2pm – 3:54pm

Wake in fright

Dir: Ted Kotcheff 1971 (Aust)
109 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
Donald Pleasence, Gary Bond
'The best and most terrifying film about Australia in existence.’ – Nick Cave. A city schoolteacher (Bond) confronts the harshness of life in an isolated mining town after he is stranded in Bundanyabba. Intending to make his way to Sydney, one night stretches into five, during which he takes up gambling and bankrupts himself, plunging headlong into disaster. Canadian director Ted Kotcheff’s unflattering portrait of an outback community exposed the constant one-upmanship, alcoholism and gambling that defined the masculinity and mateship in Australian culture at the time. Polarising audiences on its initial release in 1971, according to some accounts, during one screening a man stood up, pointed at the screen and protested, 'That’s not us!’, to which a young Jack Thompson yelled back, 'Sit down, mate. It is us.’

 

Wednesday 6 May 2015 2pm – 3:49pm

Wednesday 6 May 2015 7:15pm – 9:04pm

Sunday 10 May 2015 2pm – 3:49pm

Samson and Delilah

Dir: Warwick Thornton 2009 (Aust)
101 mins 35mm Colour Rated MA15+
Rowan McNamara, Marissa Gibson
Samson and Delilah’s world is a small isolated community in the Central Australian desert. Delilah (Gibson) spends her days caring for and painting with her nana, Kitty. Samson (McNamara) is a chronic petrol sniffer. When they become outcasts from their respective communities, they discover how harsh life can be for a pair of homeless kids. A critical and commercial success – director Warwick Thornton won the Cannes Camera d’Or in 2009 – the film opened people’s eyes to the desperate, downward-spiraling lives of many Aboriginal teenagers. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

 

Wednesday 13 May 2015 2pm – 3:41pm

Wednesday 13 May 2015 7:15pm – 8:56pm

Sunday 17 May 2015 2pm – 3:41pm

Dance me to my song

Dir: Rolf de Heer 1998 (Aust)
101 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
Heather Rose, Joey Kennedy, John Brumpton
Shattering preconceptions about major disability, Dance me to my song resists sentimentality in its exploration of the relationship between a severely disabled person and her carer. Julia (Rose) suffers from cerebral palsy. She lives in her own house in suburban Adelaide, but can`t function without assistance. Her current, hopelessly inadequate carer, Madelaine (Kennedy), is a brittle, self-absorbed and lonely young woman whose life is in disarray. Their tenuous, combative relationship is disrupted when Eddie (Brumpton) a tender, well-mannered man arrives to assist. With subject matter not often seen in mainstream cinema, director Rolf de Heer’s immensely entertaining film was written in collaboration with Rose (based on her own experiences with cerebral palsy) and Frederick Stahl. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

 

Wednesday 20 May 2015 2pm – 3:41pm

Wednesday 20 May 2015 7:15pm – 8:56pm

Sunday 24 May 2015 2pm – 3:41pm

Snowtown

Dir: Justin Kurzel 2011 (Aust)
119 Mins 35mm Colour Rated MA15+
Lucus Pittaway, Bob Adriaens
Based on the true story of the Snowtown murders, this disturbing film tells the real-life story of the 'bodies in the barrel’ murders. Serial killer John Bunting embarks on a rampage of torture and murder as he plays charismatic provider and protector to a family he has unofficially adopted. The story is told through the eyes of a vulnerable 16-year-old boy who is indoctrinated into Bunting’s world. Avoiding stereotypes, Justin Kurzel’s startling first film offers a psychological reading of the chilling crimes.

 

Wednesday 27 May 2015 2pm – 3:59pm

Wednesday 27 May 2015 7:15pm – 9:14pm

Sunday 31 May 2015 2pm – 3:59pm

Billal

Dir: Tom Zubrycki 1996 (Aust)
90 mins 16mm Colour Rated M
Celebrated filmmaker Tom Zubrycki intended to make a documentary exploring migration and class relationships in Sydney’s western suburbs. When research led him to the Etters, a Lebanese Muslim family who had migrated to Australia, a completely different story overtook the film. Following a fight between the Etters and a neighbouring family, the Etters’ son, Billal, becomes the victim of a racially motivated attack which leaves him brain damaged. Recording Billal’s fight to recover, Zubrycki’s insightful and often humorous documentary becomes an exploration of grief and suffering and a tribute to the young man’s attempt to adjust to his new situation. Largely about family, the tragic consequences of violence and the destructive effects of racism, The film also becomes a commentary on an under-resourced public health system. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

 

Wednesday 3 June 2015 2pm – 3:30pm

Plains of heaven

Dir: Ian Pringle 1982 (Aust)
80 mins 16mm Colour Unclassified
Richard Moir, Reg Evans
In this inversion of the buddy-film, two technicians manning a tracking station on the Victorian High Plains pursue opposite ways of coping with isolation. The ageing Cunningham (Evans) seems to be rejuvenated by and obsessed with the landscape, while the younger Barker (Moir) withdraws into the interior and technical world of the station. The film explores the anxiety of isolation in the wilderness – a reoccurring theme in Australian cinema – but here it is within an alpine setting rather than the usual 'dead heart’ of the outback. As described by Marcus Breen in Australian film 1978-1992, Ian Pringle’s existential drama is a bold attempt to examine psychosocial issues of disorientation, filmed in a European-style but set in an Australian context. Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

 

Wednesday 3 June 2015 7:15pm – 8:35pm