Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Favourite Australian Films (Part 1)

This post is in respone to monalisa's "It's Really Something" blog post in which she listed all her favourite movies (nearly all of them Japanese). Being an Australian screenwriter and a regular compiler of my own Top 20 list (see the current version in My Profile), I'm sad to say there aren't many Australian films in there, especially as I've been working in the Australian film industry for ten years now and have probably seen more than most. So while I'm not going to make a habit of publishing my lists, for monalisa's benefit and hopefully to inspire some others to watch some good Australian films, here are the first five of my ten favourite Australian films (in no particular order).

BLUE MURDER (1995) dir. Michael Jenkins

Technically a TV mini-series (but recently we learned from one of our AFTRS lecturers there were once plans to give it a theatrical release). It counts among its fans screenwriter Robert Towne (CHINATOWN), who said of it: "I don't think anything has impressed me more than Blue Murder."

The true story of the relationship between Detective Roger Rogerson and criminal Neddy Smith, it so closely follows the facts of the case that it was not allowed to be shown in New South Wales for years as it could potentially have affected the outcome of Neddy Smith's trial for murder. It shows the fine line between (some) police and criminals and chronicles the passing of an age where police were the ultimate enforcers of the law. It's the best Scorcese movie that Scorcese never made.

FORBIDDEN LIE$ (2007) dir. Anna Broinowski

Norma Khouri opened the world's eyes to honour killings in Jordan and became a bestselling author when she wrote a book telling the story of her Muslim friend who was killed for dating a Christian man. But when the veracity of her claims came into question, she was denouced as a liar and publication of her book FORBIDDEN LOVE ceased. This doco spends time with an astonishing women as her writing and her entire past are called into question.

One of the best documentaries I have ever seen.

LANTANA (2001) dir. Ray Lawrence

I normally hate "interwoven storylines" in narrative features, but this is one of the better examples, as it never seems forced or conceited. A woman goes missing on her way home after an argument with her husband (Geoffrey Rush), while the detective investigating (Anthony Lapaglia, fantastic in the film) is dealing with his own marital crisis. A story of trust and fidelity in all relationships, the script is wonderful and the performances from all involved are marvellous.

THE PLUMBER (1979) dir. Peter Weir

What if you couldn't get a tradesman to leave your house? This simple idea is the basis for a wonderful psychological thriller that would have cost next to nothing to make, but is really very affecting.

SAMSON AND DELILAH (2009) dir. Warwick Thornton

At time of posting, this is still in theatrical release in Australia. A heart-breaking story of a different kind of addiction: petrol-sniffing, a widespread problem amongst Australia's indigenous population. An Aboriginal boy and girl flee their reservation to try to make a fresh start in Alice Springs, but their demons follow and they must draw on resources they never knew they had to overcome them.

Lets call this a Part One. There are others that I would have to watch again to better describe. This should get you started though.


  1. Wow. You know the only Australian film I've ever seen is Priscilla! Thank you indeed for telling me these good things!

    I must watch Forbidden Lie$, Samson & Delilah and Blue Murder.

  2. Yes, please support our industry!!!

    I wanted to buy a lot of Japanese movies on DVD when I was over there but ran out of money. I wanted to get 21st Century Boys - is it any good??

  3. I need Aussie film education too... But it is back to my original point- they are not marketed well here.

    OK, so I am biased being in marketing, but it really strikes me as odd all the film makers and musicians who spend all their money and time producing movies or albums or whatever it is, then forget to allow budget to TELL people about it.

    Marketing, selling, promoting your work is equally as important as creating it because if you don't, how on earth is it going to get people watching it?

  4. Apparently the lead-time for marketing Australian films is much shorter than for "Hollywood" releases - 2 weeks vs. 8 weeks I believe.

    I read that 'Beautiful Kate' bucked the trend and tried a much longer lead-in to release. Time will tell if this is a successful approach I guess.

  5. Sorry David but i'm not acquainted with anime movies... don't read manga neither. You like Japanimation or manga?

    Aussie films are not marketed well neither here! i really wanna watch these movies but i'm sure i can't get any of them here. Do something for us!!!!!

  6. I saw Blue Murder last night... couple of comments for you, considering it was your reccomendation.

    a) There is some silly woman detective show from the UK by the same name. I almost brained the poor kid at Blockbuster for insisting it was it... until I remembered it was a telemovie, not television.
    b) It appears "Hey, Hey...who knows what day of the week it is anymore" isn't the only Aussie show with black face issues. Peter Phelps as an aboriginal? Couldn't they have at least trotted out Ernie Dingo or Gulpilil lie we do with everything else? I wonder if Deborah Mailman would consider a sex change for the remake?
    c) 189 minutes... and worth every second. I am actually surprised at the swearing, violence and sheer grit. I have studied a LOT about Rogerson and all of those dudes and found it awesome to see something that wasn't gloriously slick. It made Underbelly look like some plastic surgery cheerleader version of police corruption.

    Thank you Mr Lawrance... now hurry up and finish the top ten list will you!?

  7. So glad you liked it Bek! The writer Ian David came and spoke to us at AFTRS and the volume of research he did was astounding. He researched for a year before ever putting pen to paper and even feared for his life when he agreed to wearing a wire to one interview with a noted killer.

    I am watching Dead Calm right now as part of continuing research. Part 2 ready soon.

  8. Blue Murder is a masterpiece of real dialogue.