Rachel's Blog: Explain Australia in Ten Films

Thu, 26 Jan 2006

There's a meme going around filmic circles (and there's another rant - the idea of tagging people to complete memes, how exclusive is that? Exclusive from the verb to exclude. But the beauty of the internet is that I can steal such ideas and deliberately not credit them. Moving on then...) asking for ten films to explain America to someone from somewhere else.

What you're trying to do is give them a sense of who we are - your take on our dreams, our attitudes, our idioms, what we think we are, what we are afraid we are, what we really might be.

Which is an interesting exercise. Because of the sheer number of American movies, there is an infinite (or close to) number of combinations that can be drawn in order to give quite a specific definition of America according to one's personal experiences and opinions.

Not so with Australian films. There are relative few to choose from, and they seem to cover the same themes, or even the same stories, over and over. As this collection of comments explores, Australian films don't tell many universal tales. It's as if by taking on the task of writing an Australian film, filmmakers are also burdening themselves with the task of defining Australia, instead of concentrating on telling a good story (sorry, that should be yarn).

But I gave it a go anyway. Once I ruled out all the Australian films that I don't actually like, don't fit with my experience of what it is to be Australian, or am sick of, (war, hero-criminals, queerness, quirkiness, and films directed by Baz Luhrmann), I only came up with nine anyway. So here it is. My explanation of Australia, to a non-resident, in nine films.

  • Look Both Ways
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock
  • Wolf Creek
  • The Dish
  • Rabbit Proof Fence
  • The Cars that Ate Paris
  • Malcolm
  • Love and Other Catastrophes
  • The Rage in Placid Lake

It seems my Australia is one where the land is large and fearful; people are insecure in themselves (but will have a happy ending); homebrew technology is central, fun, although sometimes deadly; and people are cruel, and persistence against them doesn't always help.

What should number ten be? Which crucial film has slipped my mind?

Comment by Michael on Thu, 26 Jan 2006

At the risk of receiving another nasty reply I volunteer my humble suggestions of film titles and a brief rationale strengthened by the spirit of this Australia Day:

Crocodile Dundee (2) with Paul Hogan
After all, it was a box office hit

Picnic at Hanging Rock
Valentine's Day is approaching and it is set not far from your home town

The Man from Snowy River
A true classic

The Sound of one Hand clapping
There goes your theory of a happy end

Strictly Ballroom
Modern adaptation of an Australian Cinderella

We of the Never Never
An absolute _must_see_ movie

The Tracker
Opened the 2002 Melbourne Film Festival!

And a few new ones (all 2005 release)

Little Fish
You've already deleted my elaborate entry, hence no more comment

Three Dollars
The movie is set in Melbourne

The Oyster Farmer
Features ex-centerfold Jack Thompson

That's an extra 10 (unless you count Dundee 2 as a separate movie)


Comment by Michael on Thu, 26 Jan 2006

Bugger! Just noticed that you've got Picnic...double entry, sorry!
Okay, it ain't your generation and wasn't part of your experience since you haven't fought in WWI but Gallipolli as a tribute to all of those ANZAC (Lest we forget)

Comment by jeanette on Thu, 26 Jan 2006

as little Johnny has raised the issue of history, I would include Young Einstein to give a correct view. But then Looking for Alibrandi could be the one. Or the relatively unknown homage to all forms of academic plagiarism My Mother Frank.

Comment by Michael on Thu, 26 Jan 2006

The bias against and subsequent exclusion of "queerness, quirkiness" and thus a significant proportion of the Australian populace was not my idea, little jeanette ;-)

Comment by Cobungra on Thu, 26 Jan 2006

Bush Christmas !?

Comment by Anita on Thu, 26 Jan 2006

The Castle.

Comment by Rachel on Sun, 29 Jan 2006

Hey Michael - Not sure about Crocodile Dundee, but those last few on your list are definitely on my "Watch These" film list. Especially We of the Never Never. I've always meant to see that. Thanks for the reminder!