The Dish (2000)
Warner Bros. , A Division Of AOL Time Warner Ent. Co
The Dish
Produced by Working Dog
Director - Rob Sitch

Debra Choate
Santo Cilauro
Tom Gleisner
Michael Hirsh
Jane Kennedy
Rob Sitch


Santo Cilauro
Tom Gleisner
Jane Kennedy
Rob Sitch

Main Cast
Sam Neill - Cliff Buxton
Kevin Harrington - Ross 'Mitch' Mitchell
Tom Long - Glenn Latham
Patrick Warburton - Al Burnett
Genevieve Mooy - May McIntyre
Tayler Kane - Rudi Kellerman
Bille Brown - Prime Minister
Roy Billing - Mayor Robert 'Bob' McIntyre
Andrew S. Gilbert - Len Purvis
Lenka Kripac - Marie McIntyre
Matthew Moore - Keith Morrison
Eliza Szonert - Janine Kellerman
John McMartin - U.S. Ambassador Howard
Carl Snell - Billy McIntyre
Billy Mitchell - Cameron

Graeme Wood (director of photography)

Production Company
Warner Bros/Working Dog/Distant Horizon

Runtime: 101 min

Australia:M / PG-13

Release Date:
19 October 2000 in Australia, 27 April 2001 in USA

Box Office Figures:

Opening Weekend
$70,612 (USA) (18 March 2001) (6 Screens)
£218,114 (UK) (13 May 2001) (187 Screens)
AUD 2,995,500 (Australia)
€2,676 (Italy) (9 February 2003) (5 Screens)
AUD 11,182,359 (Australia) (14 December 2000)
$2,252,970 (USA) (8 July 2001)
£1,573,131 (UK) (17 June 2001)

Awards / Nominations for The Dish (2000)

Won at the ARIA Music Awards for Best Original Soundtrack Album. 2001

Took second place at the Toronto Film Festival 2001

Peoples Choice Award at Sundance Film Festival 2001

Won at the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards in 2001 for:
Best Music Score
By Edmund Choi

Best Screenplay - Original
Santo Cilauro
Tom Gleisner
Jane Kennedy
Rob Sitch

Nominated at the Australian Film Institute in 2001 for:
Best Film
Best Original Music Score

Nominated at the FCCA Award for:
Best Male Actor - Sam Neill
Best Cinematography - Graeme Wood
Best Director - Rob Sitch
Best Editing - Jill Bilcock
Best Film
Best Supporting Female Actor - Genevieve Mooy
Best Supporting Male Actor - Roy Billing

Bibliography of Reviews

Ehretsmann, Xavier. The Dish. In: L'Annuel du Cinéma 2003 (France), Les Nouvelles Fiches du Cinéma, 2003, Pg. 2-85056-637-3, (BK)

Hamacher, Rolf-Ruediger. "The Dish". In "film dienst" (Germany), Vol. 54, Iss. 15, 17 July 2001, Pg. 16

Kanthak, Dietmar. "Charmanter Rückblick auf die Frühzeit der Mondfahrt". In "epd Film" (Germany), Vol. 18, Iss. 7, 1 July 2001, p.37

Nguyen, Ky N. "A Day That United the World.". In: The Washington Diplomat (USA). (NP), Vol. 7, Iss. 4, April 2001, Pg. B16

Schwarzbaum, Lisa. "Shoot The Moon (A-)". In: Entertainment Weekly (USA), Vol. 1, Iss. 588, 23 March 2001, Pg. 80, (MG)

Stevenson, William. "Video: The Dish (B+)". In: Entertainment Weekly (USA), Vol. 1, Iss. 612, 7 September 2001, Pg. 142, (MG)

Bibliography of interviews with filmmaker

Nguyen, Ky N. "Moment. In: Time: 'Dish' Director Rob Sitch Tries to Capture History with Apollo 11 Mission.". In: The Washington Diplomat (USA). (May 2001. Pg. B8. NP), Vol. 7, Iss. 5

Online Presence

74 links to various online reviews of the film can be found at this excellent film database:,4061,391806,00.html Guardian Unlimted “The Dish” Movie Reviews “The Dish” Urban Cinefile “The Dish” “ The Dish”
CNN “The Dish serves up a funny little story” Film Threat “The Dish”


The Dish is an Australian film based on the story of the Australian satellite dish located in Parkes, New South Wales, used to assist NASA in its efforts to televise Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. The story surrounds 4 characters, Cliff Buxton (Sam Neil), Ross “Mitch” Mitchell (Kevin Harrington) Glenn Latham (Tom Long) and American Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton). The 3 eccentric Australian scientists become NASA’s only hope for relaying the television broadcast of the first man on the moon, and when joined by NASA representative Al Burnett, the team has a very eventful 4 days until finally on 20 July, 1969, Apollo 11 touches down.
Though based on a true story, it is interesting to note that the first signal received from Apollo 11 was not at the Parkes satellite dish, but rather at the Honeysuckle Creek Radio Telescope, located approximately 30k south of Canberra.
I find The Dish to be an interesting example of Australian film. The story is based on real events, but is considered to be a great Australian comedy/drama. The humor is classic Australian, very dry and subtle. It is by no stretch of the imagination a slap-stick comedy, but yet throughout the movie one finds themselves chuckling at the dynamics and interactions between characters, and naturally at the tactics used to handle the pressure situation.
The Dish also features lots of real clips from the momentous event in 1969, which adds a lot of character and depth to the movie. The story is likely unknown to many Americans who watched with pride as their nation achieved an astronomical feat, and to see the event from an Australia perspective is a nice twist. The story celebrates a uniquely American achievement from a foreign point of view.
The movie is historical but also puts a human face to important historical events, it gives representation to the little guys. The intriguing aspect of the story is that the focus of the movie is not the issue of whether Neil Armstrong makes it to the moon or not, because we naturally all know that this is going to happen. The drama comes in a seemingly simple thing: the broadcast, an element of the event which few of the 600 million people watching were aware was even an issue to give a second thought. The drama is much more about Parkes than the moon, which is a nice twist on our normal perspective of the events.
That the story takes place in small town Australia, with the entertainment of the Mayor’s family, also adds to the character of the film. It’s a huge event and the destiny of the broadcast lies at the heart of a sheep paddock, a beautifully ironic and humorous situation.

Prior Work:

Rob Sitch’s most significant prior work in the feature film industry was his debut film, The Castle (1997). This film was highly acclaimed in the Australian film industry, and is always noted with some of the best comedy films that Australia has produced. Prior to this work, Rob Sitch was mainly involved and noted for work in the television industry. He and other producers of the film, Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy, Rob Sitch, Michael Hirsh all worked previously together on the critically acclaimed and multi-award winning series Frontline (1994-1997). Rob Sitch was also involved with the Late Show in the early 1990’s which holds a mighty place in the realm of Australian comedy shows. In between production of The Castle and The Dish, Rob Sitch and Tom Gleisner also produced a documentary style T.V. series called “A River Somewhere”. (1997-1998) This, like their other works has been highly appreciated for its comical value, and yet was also noted for its stylishly informative nature. Other works for most of the group afore mentioned have been also been in T.V.; producing various series’ and documentary style shows. The Castle and The Dish are thus far Rob Sitch’s only feature length films.

Film Production
The Dish tells the story of a great feat in scientific history as scene from the point of view of Australian scientists who made crucial contributions to the mission. The film is based on a true story, and the name of the actual Parkes satellite dish director was Dr. John Bolton. (Warner Bros.) The event occurred in the town of Parkes, in New South Wales, Aus., but was actually filmed in Forbes, which is a neighboring town a few miles down the road. The reason for the change in location for the film is because Parkes has changed over the last 30 years, but Forbes hasn't changed as much - Forbes could still pass for a 1960s town, looking like Parkes did 30 years before. The entire movie was filmed in Australia, in Victoria, New South Wales, and Canberra.
Plans for the movie production revolved around the massive satellite dish itself, and the crew found that manipulating the dish to suit the needs of the film was a tricky task. How to convey the size of the dish itself on screen was also an important element. (Warner Bros Official Site)
Even more daunting than the size of the dish itself was the idea of approaching the staffers of the imposing radio telescope. "We realized early on that we had to get the permission of the operators of the dish, or we could never have made the film," Gleisner says. "For awhile we considered posing as a group of Canadian astronomers. We would have gotten away with it, but we couldn't handle the accents. We had to come clean and reveal that we're making a film about this crucial piece of equipment in a pivotal moment in Australian history...and we're doing it as a comedy-drama." (Warner Bros Official Site) The crew obtained permission, and the film was shot almost entirely on location or nearby in Forbes. Getting actors and crew to the location was a feat in of itself, having to take a small plane from city to the Parkes Airport, and the riding a sheep tray out to the location.
Another challenge for the filmmakers was remaking the control room where much of the movie takes place. Archival photos were able to be obtained, as well as similar pieces of equipment from the period. In the end, the set was nearly identical to the original. An interesting fact: "There was an original NASA registration tag for that Hewlitt Packard machine. It turns out the art department had tracked down some of the original equipment that NASA sent to Australia for the Apollo mission. After the lunar landing, the machine had been left in Australia because it was too heavy to send back to the States. That was a lovely piece of karma for the production, knowing that a piece of our set had actually carried the signals from Apollo XI." (WarnerBros Official Site)

Critical Uptake
When it opened in Australia, "The Dish" became the number one highest grossing Australian film in the history of Australian cinema. ( Today it maintains a high position on that scale. "The film has had a phenomenal response from both critics and audiences alike…" (Singh) The film essentially earned rave reviews, and has been dubbed by numerous critics as one of Australia’s best films.
Upon entering the American market however, there has been somewhat of a mixed stance. It was because of the tremendous response from within Australia that the film was captured by Warner Bros. and entered the American market. “The Dish’ is a hilarious and touching movie and we are delighted to have the opportunity to bring it to North American audiences," said Fellman, a representative of Warner Bros. "We are equally pleased to work with Michael Hirsh and this talented group of filmmakers from Working Dog Productions." (Power
The film is one of Australia’s most successful and was an audience favorite at the Sundance Film Festival. ( It was also very successful at the Toronto film festival, placing second behind the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
However, not all enjoyed it. Film Critic Max Messier said: “Elements of better films -- October Sky, Apollo 13, The Right Stuff f -- kept popping into my head as I watched the mind-numbing montages that consumed way too much celluloid.” ( Initial response would be to naturally compare it to the films that Max Messier mentioned, epics telling the story of great achievements and the great people that did them. The appeal of The Dish however, seems to lie in its simplicity and its attempt to a comedy/drama rather than simple a historical film. The drama, as previously mentioned, does not focus on the bigger event of the story either, which may not have been appreciated by all.

Australian aspects/characteristics of genre:
Of the few Australian films I have seen, The Dish characterized the comedy and humor I appreciate the most from Australia. Dry, sarcastic and humor resulting from conflict and circumstance, rather than the typical American Tom-foolery found in many Hollywood comedies, was a pleasant twist. That the story was “real”, and historically significant at that, was also refreshing.
The clash between the Australians and the Americans was very amusing, and illustrated differences and distinguished aspects of Australian character that I believe are important to Australians. To be good natured and un-stressed at moments when a high strung American can hardly contain their anxiousness is a classic illustration of “Australianess”. The laid back, carefree nature of Australians is world famous, and the 3 scientists each had their own degree. Australian hospitality was shown as the mayor of Parkes, Bob McIntyre (Roy Billing) did his best to host the Prime Minister and the US Ambassador, which simply added to the films demonstration of what small town Australia is like.
The film also demonstrates the tension between Americans and Australians, and how Australians often seem unappreciated or undervalued. The dish in Parkes was a back up to the main receiver in California, and it was not until Neil Armstrong decided that he did not want to sleep before walking on the moon that NASA really acknowledged that the Parkes location was going to be essential to the mission.
The comical value of this historical drama is what makes this movie successful. The story, while mildly interesting is not exactly what a typical movie goer expects to be such a box office hit. Rob Sitchs ability to make the story so entertaining in truly Australian ways is the key to its success. I believe The Dish will maintain its place in the realm of great Australian comedies because it does not rely on a particular audience, but rather can be appreciated by all walks of life.

Film Info
Finding information on The Dish seemed relatively easy. I would presume this is because it is a newer film, and a rather popular one at that. Because it was not only successful here in Australia, but also in the US, there were a number of websites with links to reviews and information on the film One website gave 74 links to external reviews alone. I found the official site, by Warner Bros., to be the most comprehensive and useful for production information and interesting facts on the film. Anyone seeking to find more information about it should have no problem. Its presence in hard copy periodicals seems less affluent, though existent.

References 24 April 2005

The Dish 2000 Warner Brothers

Grady, Pam. “The Dish” 2001. 24 April 2005

Warner Brothers Official Website for The Dish. 24 April 2005

Movie Reviews: The Dish. Studio Briefing. 23 2005

The Dish, 2000. 23 April 2005

Messier, Max. The Dish. 2001. . 22 April 2005