History of Australian Cinema (2004) - Alan Anderson et al

Director: Alan Anderson, Joan Long, Keith Gow
Runtime: 2h 24 min
Language: English
Country: Australia
Color: Black and white
IMDb Link: Not listed

Description: "History of Australian Cinema" is a three-part series looking at the early years of the film industry and motion pictures in Australia as “a celebration of a pioneering industry”. This DVD was produced by Jeff Harrison and Gil Mathews for Eskimo Productions, but it is actually a re-issue of three films made by Film Australia.

"The Pictures That Moved" (1969, 45 mins) was produced by Frank Bagnall, directed by Alan Anderson and written by Joan Long.

"The Passionate Industry" (1972, 60 mins) was produced by Frank Bagnall, and written and directed by Joan Long.

"Now You're Talking" (1980, 47 mins) was produced by Anthony Buckley, written and directed by Keith Gow.

All three films are excellent examples of the classic compilation film form – a form often used at that time by Film Australia. They were part of the “national program”, that is, films funded out of Film Australia's central budget, rather than commissioned by client departments. They were produced in-house, by Film Australia staff, who considered nationalist sentiment not out of place, though by that time some irony or reflexivity was encouraged in its expression.

Joan Long, even while she speaks of aiming for “objectivity”, understood that the writing of history is never innocent, whether in print or on film. She must have been aware that the production of a trilogy of films about the early years of the film industry in Australia would play a role in 1970s debates concerning similar struggles of indigenous film against imported productions. To the credit of all concerned, the three films do this with considerable humour, and surprising restraint – never making explicit the obvious parallels between the years which are the subject of the films, and the years during which the films are being produced.

These three films made an important contribution to the pressure in the 1970s for government support for the revival of an Australian feature film industry, and they can be read now as having a triple significance. They present the films of 1896–1940 to later audiences who might well have forgotten their existence. They represent to Australian audiences the case for indigenous film production that was influential in the 1970s when the compilation was made, and that has led to the production of so many local films and television programs – however local audiences may judge them. Finally, they remind audiences in the noughties that Australia has a long and proud film heritage for which we have fought successfully in the past – and which deserves to be recognised and protected in the present.
Ina Bertrand, November 2004 sensesofcinema.com

Beginning with footage of the 1896 Melbourne Cup and closing with the coming of World War II these three documentaries (made over the course of 12 years between 1967 and 1979) are essential to anyone the slightest bit interested in Australian cinema history.

Part One covers the years 1896-1920 and takes early newsreel footage as well as Australia's first feature film The Story of the Kelly Gang, part two covers 1920-30 and the rise of Dad and Dave, over a hundred feature films were made in Australia during the 1920's only thirty are known to still be inexistence, part three covers the 1930's and the rise of the talkie, the career of Charles Chauvel who made the legendary Forty Thousand Horsemen as well as the irrepressible Mo (aka Rene Roy).

Of enormous interest A History of Australian Cinema proves that Australian cinema didn't start in the 1970's as many would have us believe, we had a thriving industry right from the beginning and a for a time in the very earliest days actually led the world in feature making.


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