Historical Dictionary of Australian and New Zealand Cinema
In its 19 years of operation, the Limelight Department produced about films of various lengths, making it the largest film producer of its time. The major innovation of the Limelight Department came in when Herbert Booth and Joseph Perry began work on Soldiers of the Cross , described by some as the first feature-length film ever produced.
Soldiers of the Cross fortified the Limelight Department as a major player in the early film industry. The Limelight Department was commissioned to film the Federation of Australia. The s was a "boom" period in Australian cinema. It began slowly in the s, and saw 4 narrative films released, then 51 in , 30 in , and 17 in , and back to 4 in , when the beginning of World War I brought an end to film making.
In all, between and , narrative feature films were made, of which almost 90 were made between and There was a general consolidation in the early s in the production, distribution and exhibition of films in Australia which saw by the merger of numerous independent producers into Australasian Films and Union Theaters now known as Event Cinemas which established control over film distributors and cinemas and required smaller producers to deal with the cartel.
Some view the arrangement as opening the way for American distributors in the s to sign exclusive deals with Australian cinemas to exhibit only their products, thereby shutting out the local product and crippling the local film industry. There are various other explanations for the decline of the industry in the s.
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Some historians point to falling audience numbers, a lack of interest in Australian product and narratives, and Australia's participation in the war. Also, there was an official ban on bushranger films in To redress this imbalance, the federal government imposed a tax on imported film in , but this was removed by In , F. Thring — established the Efftee Studios based in Melbourne to make talking films using optical sound equipment imported from the USA.
During the five years of its existence, Efftee produced nine features, over 80 shorts and several stage productions. Notable collaborators included C. Dennis , George Wallace and Frank Harvey. Film production continued only until , when it ceased as a protest over the refusal of the Australian government to set Australian film quotas, followed soon by Thring's death.
Cinesound Productions was established in with Ken G.
Hall as its main driving force. The company also used the Hollywood model for the promotion of its films and attempted to promote a star system. It was particularly successful with the On Our Selection series of comedies, based on the popular writings of author Steele Rudd , which featured the adventures of a fictional Australian farming family, the Rudds, and the perennial father-and-son duo, ' Dad and Dave '.
Despite its ambitions, Cinesound produced only 17 feature films, all but one being directed by Ken Hall. The company was financially successful.
The company ceased making feature films with the outbreak of World War II. In , In the Wake of the Bounty , directed by Charles Chauvel , cast Tasmanian born Errol Flynn in a leading role,  before he went on to a celebrated Hollywood career. Chauvel directed a number of successful Australian films, including 's World War II classic The Rats of Tobruk which starred Peter Finch and Chips Rafferty and 's Jedda , which was notable for being the first Australian film to be shot in colour, and the first to feature Aboriginal actors in lead roles and to be entered at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Cinematograph Films Act established a quota of films that had to be shown in British cinemas that would be shot in Great Britain as well as nations in the British Empire that stimulated Australian film production.
However the Cinematograph Films Act mollified the British film industry by specifying only films made by and shot in Great Britain would be included in the quota that removed Australian films from the British local film quota, which saw the loss of a guaranteed market for Australian films. Rafferty's onscreen image as a lanky, laconic bushman struck a chord with filmgoers and he appeared in iconic early Australian films such as Forty Thousand Horsemen , The Rats of Tobruk , The Overlanders and Eureka Stockade Overlanders and Eureka were part of a series of Australian themed films produced by Britain's iconic Ealing Studios.
Similarly, Peter Finch starred in quintessentially Australian roles such as Digger or stockman through a series of popular films and had a successful and diverse screen career in Britain and the United States. Both Ron Randell and Rod Taylor began their acting careers in Australia initially in radio and on stage before appearing in such Australian films as Smithy for the former and Long John Silver for the latter before transferring to the United States to become a Hollywood leading men in a number of films of the late s Randell and both from the s onwards' Taylor had with starring roles in The Time Machine and The Birds as well as several American TV series such as Hong Kong.
Australian film production was reaching a low ebb with few notable productions during the s. The film foreshadowed the successful approaching " New Wave " of Australian cinema of the s that would often showcase colloquial Australian culture. John Gorton , Prime Minister of Australia from —, initiated several forms of government support for film and the arts.
The Gough Whitlam government —75 continued to support Australian film and state governments also established assistance programs. These measures led to the resurgence of Australian film called the Australian New Wave , which lasted until the mid-late s. The era also marked the emergence of the " Ozploitation " style — characterised by the exploitation of colloquial Australian culture. The s and '80s are regarded by many as a 'golden age' of Australian cinema, with many successful films, from the dark dystopian fiction of Mad Max George Miller , to the romantic comedy of Crocodile Dundee Peter Faiman , and the emergence of such film directing auteurs as Gillian Armstrong , Phillip Noyce and Bruce Beresford.
A major theme of Australian cinema which matured in the s was one of survival in the harsh Australian landscape. These films depict the Australian bush and its creatures as deadly, and its people as outcasts and psychopaths. These are combined with futuristic post-apocalyptic themes in the Mad Max series.
Classic stories from Australian literature and Australian history continued to be popular subjects for cinematic adaptation during the s and s. In addition to the serious historical dramas popular in the s, a number of films celebrating and satirizing Australian colloquial culture were produced over the decade, including: The Adventures of Barry McKenzie , Alvin Purple , and Barry McKenzie Holds His Own These films, now considered classics of Australian cinema explored contemporary Australian identity through dramatic episodes in Australian history.
Gibson went on to further success in 's The Year of Living Dangerously before transferring to pursue his Hollywood career as an actor and director. Many other Australian stars would follow his path to international stardom in the coming decades. Weir contributed to the screenplay along with its original author Christopher Koch, and playwright David Williamson.
Williamson rose to prominence in the early s, and has gone on to write several other original scripts and screenplays made into successful Australian films including: Don's Party ; Gallipoli , Emerald City , and Balibo The movie became the most successful Australian film ever, and launched Hogan's international film career.
The thriller garnered strong reviews and Hollywood roles followed. The s proved a successful decade for Australian film and introduced several new stars to a global audience. Stephan Elliott 's film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert mixed traditional outback cinematography and landscape with contemporary urban sub-culture: following three drag queens on a road trip to Central Australia. While a number of major international stars gained early prominence in Australia over the period, an important stable of established and emerging local stars with prodigious film credits remained prominent, including screen veterans Charles Tingwell , Bill Hunter , Jack Thompson , Bryan Brown and Chris Haywood.
Crowe demonstrated his versatility as an actor in this early period of his career by starring soon after as a street gang Melbourne skinhead in 's Romper Stomper and then as an inner-Sydney working class gay man in 's The Sum of Us before transferring to the US to commence his Hollywood career. George Miller's Babe employed new digital effects to make a barnyard come alive and went on to become one of Australia's highest-grossing films.
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After Ledger's successful transition to Hollywood, Jordan and Ledger collaborated again in with Ledger playing the iconic bushranger title role in the film Ned Kelly , which co-starred British actress Naomi Watts. In , Rolf de Heer's Ten Canoes became the first major feature film to be shot in an indigenous language and the film was recognised at Cannes and elsewhere.
The shifting demographics of Australia following post-war multicultural immigration was reflected in Australian cinema through the period and in successful films like 's The Heartbreak Kid ; 's Looking for Alibrandi ; 's Fat Pizza ; the Wog Boy comedies and 's Romulus, My Father which all dealt with aspects of the migrant experience or Australian subcultures. Rob Sitch and Working Dog Productions followed the success of The Castle with period comedy The Dish , which was the highest grossing Australian film of the Year and entered the top ten list of highest grossing Australian films.
Big budget Australian-international co-productions Moulin Rouge! Baz Luhrmann , and Happy Feet which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for filmmaker George Miller in also entered the top ten list during the first decade of the new century. Baz Luhrmann directed a series of international hits and returned to Australia for the production of 's Australia , which showcased a host of Australian stars including Nicole Kidman , Hugh Jackman and David Wenham and went on to become the second highest-grossing film in Australian cinematic history.
Lantana , directed by Ray Lawrence attained critical and commercial success in for its examination of a complex series of relationships in suburban Sydney, and events surrounding a mysterious crime. Emerging star Sam Worthington had early lead roles in the mobster black comedy Dirty Deeds and 's crime caper Gettin' Square. Gettin Square also featured rising star David Wenham who demonstrated versatility with a string of critically acclaimed roles including the title role in Paul Cox 's biopic Molokai: The Story of Father Damien and the thriller The Bank , directed by the politically conscious film director Robert Connolly.
The early s were generally not successful years for Australian cinema, with several confronting dramas proving unpopular at the box office. Animal Kingdom achieved success at the Australian Film Institute Awards and was acclaimed at film festivals around the world. The Australian film industry continues to produce a reasonable number of films each year, but in common with other English-speaking countries, Australia has often found it difficult to compete with the American film industry ,  the latter helped by having a much larger home market.
The most successful Australian actors and filmmakers are easily lured by Hollywood and rarely return to the domestic film industry. The South Australian Film Corporation was established in to promote and produce films, while the Australian Film Commission was created in to fund and produce internationally competitive films.
In the three agencies were consolidated into Screen Australia. There is an ongoing debate of the need and role of government support for the Australian film industry. Some argue in favour of government support as being the only way that the local film industry can compete against the hegemony of Hollywood. The argument against government support is that the industry is viable without support and will become stronger if increasingly globalised market forces are allowed full and untrammeled play.
Others argue that a film industry in itself has little value. The history of the industry in Australia is to some extent a result of the ascendancy of one position over the other. Eric Bana , star of Chopper and Munich. Cate Blanchett , the first Australian to win two Academy Awards and the most nominated Australian in the acting categories overall with 7 nominations.
Abbie Cornish , star of Somersault and Sucker Punch. Joel Edgerton , star of Animal Kingdom and Loving. Mel Gibson , star of Braveheart and Mad Max.
She is commonly referred to as Hollywood's top import. Kidman is considered one of Hollywood's biggest stars and is the most successful Australian actress. Guy Pearce , star of Memento and The Rover. Naomi Watts , star of 21 Grams and Mulholland Dr. All readers. Australian entries take up about 75 percent of the book, while New Zealand takes up around 25 percent of the content. Essays focus on actors, directors, films, companies, and locations, with cross-references in bold and see also references in capitals after the essay. As is common with this series, an extensive bibliography related to the topic for each country is provided.