As FILM MAFIA predicted, the unique – and, by all accounts – extremely “uncommercial” Samson and Delilah has taken nearly two and a half million Australian box office dollars as of this writing. Why were we able to predict this? And indeed, why has this phenomenon occurred? Because there is something in the water, in the air, in the press, and it is tangible. You can feel it. Suddenly the public is reacting to this notion of “We don’t see Australian films” and they’re starting, once again to see them – in droves. The thing is, as a film-maker, you’ve got to have made a good one.
There are a couple out:
BASTARDY is, literally, extraordinary. A doco made over seven years – a true labour of love – the film follows Jack Charles, one of the most unique Australians to have ever graced – and crossed over – what we call our nation. Jack started the first “Black Theatre” in Melbourne in the early 70s, and that should have been enough. That he became a sought-after film actor in the 1970s should have been enough. That he became – or always was – a burglar and a junkie – and has remained one until the present day – not only entertains us (because Jack Charles is nothing other than, nor has never been anything other than, entertaining) – opens up such interesting questions about our race relations — and in such a unique way — that I can’t imagine this documentary being anything other than fascinating to anyone on the entire planet. Why does a junkie steal? Why does a burglar burgle? Why does a junkie burgle and why does a burglar junk? You’d think these questions were all of a muchness but they’re not — not according to Jack Charles, at least. BASTARDY is probably the greatest Australian documentary of the year, not least because it is, ultimately, about that most unique Australian — Jack Charles, the very reflection of who we are, were, and, actually want to be. He is our past, our present and our future.
DISGRACE, adapted from the Booker-winner novel by J.M. Coetzee, was made by the Australian writer/ director team of Anna-Maria Montecelli and Steve Jacobs. Telling the South African-based story of an unrepentant professor (guilty of seducing and having sex with a student) who then tries to understand his daughter’s commitment to her piece of farmland in the midst of personal tragedy, the film is unashamedly ambitious, and good on it for being so. It is full of ideas. Never shying away from the basic and in-your-face metaphorical nature of the source novel, DISGRACE is a bold Australian film, particularly so for being a film that is not set in Australia one iota.
We will see how this current concept pans out with ACCIDENTS HAPPEN, the very first Australian film (of any artistic merit) set entirely in the United States.
So what is happening in Australian cinema this year? A lot. A hell of a lot. Stay tuned. Finally, the audience seems to be too.