contents

Ten Types of Australian Film

Garry Gillard

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previous: crime

Chapter 4: Social Problem


For the purposes of this chapter a “social problem film” is one which is

directed toward the dramatization of topical social issues—capital punishment, prison life, juvenile delinquency, poverty, marital conflict, family tension, and, to a lesser degree, racism.1

Put more generally, a problem film

combines social analysis and dramatic conflict within a coherent narrative structure. Social content is transformed into dramatic events and movie narrative adapted to accommodate social issues as story material through a particular set of movie conventions.2

Films dealing with these issues may also be dramas, crime films, teenpics, melodramas, etc., but I shall suggest in this chapter that there is a sufficient body of “social problem films” in the Australian context for them to deserve separate treatment, despite the overlapping (which we expect to find with every type of film). Films for specific treatment here are these four: The Boys (Rowan Woods, 1997), Dead Heart (Nick Parsons, 1996), Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phil Noyce, 2001), and Angel Baby (Michael Rymer, 1995).3

The Boys is a family melodrama, and a crime film of a kind; it could also be said to be a film noir—but I want to discuss it here as a film dealing with several kinds of social problems. The central character, Brett Sprague (David Wenham), is, by the end of the narrative, a possible recidivist. We see him leaving prison at the beginning of the film, and before its end he is back inside again. It can be suggested that he has been to some extent institutionalised—not just because of those bare facts, but because of the kinds of behaviour he exhibits during the course of the film. He is extremely aggressive to every member of his extended family, and particularly towards the more vulnerable of the women. After his time in prison he seems unable to have sex with his girlfriend, Michelle (Toni Collette), and he is verbally abusive especially to Nola (Anne Lise), Stevie’s (Anthony Hayes) pregnant girlfriend, but outrageously sexist towards all the women, even his mother (Lynette Curran). We know little of what he was like before he committed the crime for which he was sentenced, so we are free to infer to what extent the experience of being inside has caused him to have become (among other things) gynophobic to the point of committing rape and then murder.

The whole Sprague family can be seen as being inherently problematical. One brother has irresponsibly impregnated his girlfriend; the marriage of another, Glenn (John Polson), is on the verge of breakdown. Sandra, the boys’ mother (Lynette Curran), has a Maori lover for whom the sons have so little respect that they call him by the racist appellation “Abo”. They spend much of their time smoking dope or drinking beer in the run-down house or older-model car. It’s not surprising that the boredom and pent-up aggression with which Brett seems to contaminate the others leads to an anti-social act committed against an outsider who just happens to be in the same street as them at the wrong time.

The origins of the play (by Gordon Graham) on which the film was based were in the actual rape and murder of Sydney nurse Anita Cobby, so it’s reasonable to assume that part of the reason for conceiving and writing the original material was to imagine and investigate what might drive men to commit such an act. In other words, it’s an investigation of a social problem involving sexism, family breakdown, imprisonment.4

Dead Heart is also much more than a film about imprisonment, and yet one outcome of imprisonment is the first in the chain of events which constitutes its complex story. As in Deadly (Esben Storm, 1992), it is an Aboriginal death in custody which is the first cause in such a chain. One of the major problems with which the film is concerned (and the closely-related play, both written by Nick Parsons) is the coexistence and/or collision of the Two Laws (to mention the title of a 1981 documentary by Alessandro Cavadini & Carolyn Strachan) both of which may apply in some of the more remote areas of Australia, as here in the fictional settlement of Wala Wala. One is the law of the white settlers as embodied principally in the main character, the policeman Ray Lorkin (Bryan Brown). The other is the traditional law that maintains the Dreaming, guards the sacred places, and gives its owner the right and the ability to punish those who transgress it. Several characters occupy the ambivalent space between.5 Billy Curlew (Lafe Charlton) is Ray’s assistant and occasional drinking partner (despite this being a dry community), who fails to keep safe the man in his white-law lockup, as a result of which he is punished with a traditional spearing.

The main character who falls between the two cultures and ethical systems is David (Ernie Dingo), in the sense that he is pivotal in the plot. He is Aboriginal but a priest in a white surplice. When another character, a Tjangala man (David Gulpilil), is imprisoned for killing Tony (Aaron Pederson), David (the priest) is instrumental in helping him get free (he brings him a rope with which Gulpilil’s character will pretend to hang himself), and Ray forces him to accompany him out into the desert to bring him back. David says he’ll “die out there”—as he’s not used to the traditional indigenous way of life—but it turns out it is he who saves Ray. When the policeman has been speared and is close to death, David jumps into the water to protect and save him, appealing to elder Poppy (Gnarnayarrhe Waitaire) to let Ray live, saying “that’s enough”.

Tony (Aaron Pedersen) also falls awkwardly between two cultures. He has been taken from his parents (that is, he is one of the “stolen generation”—something of which Ray says at one point that he approves) so he has forgotten his traditional culture—as shown when he tries, when drunk, to do an emu dance but immediately forgets how: he says he “can’t remember”. So, in the process of bringing to a climax his affair with Kate (Angie Milliken), the wife of the schoolteacher Les (Lewis Fitz-Gerald), he commits a heinous crime in taking her to the initiation cave, where, as he says, “This is where we kill boys—and make men.” He pays for this with his death, as the most spectacular failure of all the characters.

On a rather more trivial level, there are other symptoms of the difficulties of living in a complex melange of economic and ethical systems. Poppy’s Toyota, for example: although he has apparently written off the previous one by shooting it up, he puts pressure on Ray to organise a new one for him. And David provides another example of a go-between when he is put in a position where he has to write a letter on behalf of the community to have Ray removed. In another example, although, as already mentioned, Ray has a drink when he wants one, he also stops Tony running grog into the community, and shoots up his shipment. This is a tangential reference to the problems that various kinds of drug or substance abuse can sometimes cause in remote communities, although there is no more time or space, in this packed plot, for the film to deal with it any more depth.

A more detailed depiction of such problems is to be found in Yolngu Boy (Stephen Johnson, 2001), in which the effects of petrol sniffing on the part of one of the three main characters, Botj (Sean Munungurr) are shown stylistically with camera movement, distortion etc., and also result, in terms of the narrative, in a critical event: the death of Botj. This is another film which deals with the difficulties of dealing with distinct cultural systems—but the situation is perhaps more hopeful in the actual Yolngu country (in Arnhem Land) than it is in the more fictional “dead heart”. Petrol sniffing is not the only reason for making the film, but as the director says: “That’s partly why I made the movie, because of that sad situation”. After Botj died in the film and Sean Munungurr not only reappeared alive in his community at Gapuwiyak but also started sniffing again—something he had eschewed during the film-making—he became a sort of cult figure among the younger people, who seem to have concluded that it was possible to die from sniffing but then come back to life. The representation of the deadly effects of petrol sniffing, combined with the presence of the young film star and therefore role model, actually resulted in the practice becoming even more prevalent than it was before.6

The stolen generation is tangentially referred to in Dead Heart, but in Rabbit-Proof Fence it is front and centre. In the most emotive scene of the film, we see the children actually being physically taken by the authorities, in the person of hapless Constable Riggs (Jason Clarke). The stolen generation is now seen as the problem, but at the time of the events depicted in the film, this removal was the solution. The “problem”—as seen by the authorities, who are represented mainly by A. O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh)—was “half-castes”. Neville’s title was Chief Protector of Aborigines in Western Australia: ironically, given that one of the main things he did was to take children from their mothers. It was thought at the time that the Aboriginal race would die out, and that the lighter skinned (and therefore more European) children should be taken into the white community and their blackness bred out: some people actually advocated the sterilisation of half-castes. These removals in fact created what is seen as a problem now: the effects of deracination on people who were not allowed to know their parents (although this is not shown in any detail in the film).

The idea of breeding out Aboriginality is discussed in another film which was important for raising issues about race relations: The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (Fred Schepisi, 1978). Half-caste Jimmie (Tommy Lewis) marries a white girl, Gilda (Angela Punch) and another Neville, the Rev. Neville (Jack Thompson), explains to him how good it will be when his quarter-caste children have octoroon children, and so on, until they’ll be “hardly black at all”. However, Jimmie himself is not accepted by his white employers, who even try to get his wife to leave him. Caught between two cultures, the pressure on him causes Jimmie to embark on a desperate course of action from which there is no return.

Two films even more recent than Rabbit-Proof Fence and which wear their hearts even more prominently on their sleeves are Australian Rules (Paul Goldman, 2002) and Black and White (Craig Lahiff, 2002). The latter is a courtroom drama which has a bob each way as to whether or not Max Stuart (David Ngoombujarra) did actually kill the nine-year-old girl of whose murder he was convicted. The point as usual is whether he was found guilty on the evidence or out of prejudice. Australian Rules is pitched mainly at secondary school audiences in terms of paying its way, using Australian Rules football as the device that draws people together across the racial divide, in the same way that, say, Remember the Titans (Boaz Yakin, 2002), a Disney film, does with gridiron. The hero (of Australian Rules) is Gary Black (Nathan Phillips), who is (ironically) called “Blacky”, and his best friend is Dumby (Luke Carroll), who is a young man of another colour: his surname is (ironically) Red. Young Red is shot in a moment of confusion by Blacky’s evil father (Simon Westaway) in a break-in at his hotel, when everyone is sleeping off the drinks following the premiership celebrations (in which Dumby, although best player, is robbed of the trophy by the white coach’s son: Disney would not allow that in the storyline). Blacky stands up to his father (and gets badly beaten for his gesture), and later attends his mate’s funeral, although an unwanted guest. No wonder that the film ends with him planning to leave the town (ironically called Prospect Flat) with his girlfriend Clarence, Dumby’s sister.

Fortunately, there was yet another film—a very fine one this time—also dealing with racism, which was released in the same year: Beneath Clouds (Ivan Sen, 2002). Its subtle script throws together, in an exquisitely photographed film, two young people who are both on a journey to reach a parent. They are both Indigenous, but Vaughn (Damian Pitt) is not immediately aware of that, as Lena (Dannielle Hall) is lighter in skin colour than he is. They travel together, for most of the time on foot, from Moree to Sydney, where he hopes to see his mother before she dies, and she hopes to find her Irish father. Along the way they encounter many people, both black and white, who exhibit various degrees of sensitivity and acceptance towards them. There are several subtly epiphanic moments both for the main characters and for the audience. Perhaps the most significant is the moment when Vaughn become aware of what he has in common with Lena. It comes well into the film when they are passengers in the black Holden (with “Black Beauty” on the rear window). The older woman in the back seat (Jocelyn Murray) next to Lena in the middle asks her: “Where your people from, girl?” Vaughn, on the other side, looks across at them with a frown of dawning enlightenment. Lena looks from the woman to Vaughn, but says nothing; there is no need: the point has been made.

Another film in which two people are not accepted by the mainstream is Angel Baby—but not because of what they look like on the outside: here the problem is what people perceive as what is inside their heads. The two main characters, Kate (Jacqueline McKenzie) and Harry (John Lynch), are diagnosed as being “mentally ill”. The film, as discussed elsewhere, is ambivalent about this.7 On the one hand, it gives a clear cause for Kate being traumatised by appalling life experience: she has been raped by her father; she tells Harry it was “like death”. Something also seems to have happened which involved doctors and blood, as she is paranoid about both. She may perhaps have had a termination of the pregnancy caused by the rape, or perhaps she was a virgin, and bled—but these are pure speculations. However, she does have scarring on her wrists, indicating an attempt at suicide. We don’t know much about Harry’s background, except that he too has similar scars.

On the other hand, there is a good deal of talk in the film, especially from the medical characters, about schizophrenia as not only a disease but also as congenital. When it is discovered that Kate is pregnant, Doctors Norberg and Singani (Robyn Nevin and Alex Pinder) tell her, “There is a real chance of relapse into psychosis”—apparently just from the pregancy as such: “What if your voices come back?” Not only that but “There is a chance that the child will inherit your illness”. So, although an etiology of post-traumatic stress is clearly established, there is also apparently no doubt that Kate has a supposedly congenital disease. And for most of the film, this is the line that is taken by everyone, including the main characters. Kate is seen at one point reading a book called Surviving Schizophrenia, with sections on “congenital anomalies” and “birth defects”. Shortly afterwards they flush their prescription drugs down the toilet: “Do you want our baby to be born with Stelazine in her veins?” From that point on, everything goes wrong for the couple. They each have crazy episodes and end up in a locked ward, from which they have to escape to go and live for a time in a squat, emphasising even more strongly their position as outcasts. It’s not long before Harry decides to start taking his medication again, and he goes to get Kate’s as well: “She needs her medication”.

The film’s opening sequence clearly establishes the theme of madness as a social problem, before Kate has even been introduced. Harry is discovered slowing turning with his arms outstretched in a heavy shower of rain, opening and closing his mouth, in what will turn out to be a recurring motif. He is joined by three other “clients” from the Club House, a well-known clinic in Melbourne: Dave (David Argue), Rowan (Geoff Brooks) and Frank (Humphrey Bower). They catch a bus and go to a bowling alley, and in a sequence recalling films like The Dream Team (Howard Zieff, 1989) and, before that, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Milos Forman, 1975), they exhibit “crazy” behaviour. The camera is positioned to one side of the top of the lane, motionless, so that each “bowler” can be seen to enter the scene one after another and perform. Frank does bowl his ball, but from a standing position, and without any bowling style. Next is Dave, who appears to be going to bowl conventionally, but then aggressively throws the ball overarm, again from a standing position, and follows that up with giving the ball the finger. Finally, Rowan rolls the ball gently down the lane and then follows it down, to the consternation of the manager of the alley (Peter Sardi). Harry goes down to get him and Dave bowls a ball knocking them off their feet for what he calls a “Strike!” The manager throws them out, with some difficulty. Although the film was sold as a love story (“In a world that says they can’t, Harry and Kate will risk everything, to prove they can”), it is also a social problem film, raising many questions about how to deal with people who are “different”.

Another film in the Australian catalogue which is strikingly similar in two important respects to Angel Baby is Lilian’s Story (Jerzy Domaradzki, 1996). One difference is that it is based on (a novel by Kate Grenville based on) a real person: Bea Miles, a Sydney identity who used to recite Shakespeare in the street in return for cash. In the film, young Lilian (Toni Collette), like Kate, is raped by her father—except that this time we see the act. We also see Lilian’s post-traumatic shock state. And like Kate, Lilian is incarcerated—although in her case it is for many years before the older Lilian (Ruth Cracknell) is allowed to leave. This is another story in which what could have remained and been dealt with as a personal problem—becomes a social problem involving people and institutions.

When those institutions have to deal with children, then the social problem involved is sometimes the one once called juvenile delinquency. Perhaps the clearest example is a film whose title says it all: Mallboy (Vincent Giarrusso, 2000). Kane McNay is Shaun, whose father is in prison and whose mother Jenny (Nell Feeney) makes little effort to dissuade Shaun from his unhealthy and anti-social behaviour (drinking, smoking, drugs, truancy). His social worker Darren (Brett Tucker) is trying to do what he can, but Shaun is able to avoid him for the most part—and when he does get Shaun into a social welfare unit his mother wants to get him out again and back to the dysfunctional family home.

An earlier classic of the sub-genre is The FJ Holden (Michael Thornhill, 1977), a significant film, although not the most engaging or inspiring story. The scene under the opening titles is one of the least attractive of any Australian feature film: one of the main characters, Deadlegs (Gary Waddell), having completely unaffectionate sex with a girl in the back of a panel van while attempting to drink a can of beer at the same time. Kevin (Paul Couzens) and Bob (Carl Stever) then spend some of the opening section of the film driving around Bankstown Square mall in their eponymous car looking for a pretty girl. The car is the focus of the movie in the sense that the boys spend much of their time in it: racing, avoiding getting caught by the police, drinking, having sex, going to a party, escaping in it from a fracas at a party and then finally returning home in it to the consequences of some of the above. Kevin is not really a juvenile delinquent, and has a stable and supportive family life, but the film does show the kind of suburban ennui which can contribute to the beginnings of an anti-social way of life. As with the opening of Holidays on the River Yarra (Leo Berkeley, 1990): under the titles, the camera is fixed on a shop window display until the last credit, when the window is broken. When we then meet the young main characters they are wearing or carrying what we have been looking at in the window. As these films are also about teenagers, we’ll meet up with them again in Chapter 10: the teenpic.

Younger children also may come into the territory of social problems, even though they themselves do not cause them, as, for example, stories in which the custody of children is in question. At one end of the spectrum of social class is Careful He Might Hear You (Carl Schultz, 1983), in which the child only known as PS (Nicholas Gledhill), having lost his parents, is the subject of a battle between his wealthy relative from England, Aunt Vanessa (Wendy Hughes), and his less well-off Aunt Lila (Robyn Nevin). Perhaps because money is involved, the emphasis is, in the end, more on the emotions of all involved than on their legal position with regard to the state. In a film made at about the same time but at the other end of the social scale and on the other side of the country, Fran (Glenda Hambly, 1985), it is not the good aunt who wins custody of the children but the welfare agency. Fran (Noni Hazlehurst) is a lively young woman who likes men and likes to have a good time. She has three young children from three different liaisons. Bored with her suburban existence, and knowing that her neighbour Marge (Annie Byron) will try to look after the kids, she goes off for weeks on a holiday with a barman she has picked up, Jeff (Alan Fletcher). But not only are the children taken into custody as wards of the state, but it’s also suggested that Jeff has interfered with eldest daughter Lisa (Narelle Simpson), and the film ends on an unusually sombre note.

Another Perth film in which the custody of children is a central issue is Teesh and Trude (Melanie Rodriga, 2002), but this one finds the resources with which to end positively, even heroically.8 Two women share a flat provided by the state. Teesh (Susie Porter) has her young son with her, but Trude (Linda Cropper) has lost contact with her teenage children, as her ex-husband has custody due to her past misdemeanours. Teesh has her own problems as she has had to allow her jailbird father Bob (Bill McCluskey) to take up legal guardianship of her son, again due to a background of substance abuse. And she continues such abuse in the one day we see of her life by administering half a ‘sleeping tablet’ to the hyperactive son, Kenny (Mason Richardson). When Bob turns up, having got out early with good behaviour, he attempts to take up the high moral ground, drawing attention to the pill bottle at what is, for Trude, the most embarrassing moment. However, we see he is no better, drinking himself to sleep in the middle of the day, and threatening to take her child Kenny (Mason Richardson) from his mother Teesh as blackmail to be allowed to stay in the flat. Later, Trude’s ex turns up with the kids, and it’s an ugly scene with Bob mentioning the sleeping pill incident and Teesh’s boyfriend Rod (Peter Phelps) at his sexist best. However, in the end, no authorities have to be called in, and at least Trude has the phone number of the house where her children live.

The authorities certainly have to be called in in Jenny Kissed Me (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1986), when Jenny’s (Tamsin Grey) de facto father Lindsay (Ivar Kants) abducts her because he believes that her mother Carol (Deborra-Lee Furness) is not a “proper mother”. After 90 minutes of sex and action, however, all ends as well as possible in a thriller melodrama with Lindsay making an honest woman of Carol and then dying of cancer, knowing that mother and daughter will now get on well without him—as they should, given that his obsession with the daughter who is not his is, as her mother says, “unnatural”.

It seems that the kinds of social problem films that emerge from a national cinema depend to a large extent on what kinds of social problems that nation is perceived as having. For example, there are no Australian films which deal centrally with capital punishment as an ethical issue, probably because we haven’t had capital punishment in any of the Australian states for some time; whereas films like Dead Man Walking (Tim Robbins, 1995) are still being made in America. On the other hand, as we have seen above, a significant number of Australian films deal with issues around racism, and the number increases, it seems, as time goes by.

It might be illuminating to take a small number of classic American social problem films and compare them with selected Australian films. Let us take these three: The Wild One (Laslo Benedek, 1954): the classic film about a bikie gang invasion, led in this case by Johnny (Marlon Brando); Blackboard Jungle (Richard Brooks, 1955), with Glenn Ford as the teacher of restless young Sidney Poitier; and Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955): the best-known James Dean film, featuring the deadly game of chicken. Now compare them with, firstly: Shame (Steve Jodrell, 1988). In this film, a biker rides into a small town, and, in a sense, takes it over. But the rider in this case is a beautiful blonde and a lawyer, Asta (Deborra-Lee Furness), and the social problem central to the film is not anything to do with the bike, but endemic rape of the town’s girls, as sanctioned in effect by as normal by the community. Not a reasonable comparison? Yes, you’re right: we also have Mad Max (Dr George Miller, 1979), and, more to the point, Stone (Sandy Harbutt, 1974). The labels are many that can be placed on Miller’s first major film: apocalyptic science fiction fantasy, for example; and it is only to a much slighter extent a social problem film in the sense adopted here. Harbutt’s film, however, does superficially resemble Benedek’s, and I’m sure he would have had it mind, but it’s as much a film about crime as about the social problem caused by bikie gangs: the eponymous hero is an undercover cop, who is actually there to protect the bikies; and the depiction of the bikie lifestyle is quite sympathetic.

Blackboard Jungle is the classic American film about rebellious youth in the classroom; let’s compare it with the Australian film of the rebellious teenager who gives the title to The Heartbreak Kid (Michael Jenkins, 1993). In the American film, there is no romance between teacher and tough kids, although they do have to reach an accommodation. In the Australian film, however, the teacher, Claudia Karvan, and student, Alex Dimitriades, become romantically involved: it’s a romance, a love story.

Finally, let’s compare James Dean with ... Kylie Minogue, in The Delinquents (Chris Thomson, 1989). Here, the only similarity, if any, is in the titles. The best way to view the film, as Adrian Martin points out, is as a “woman’s melodrama” (for which see Chapter 5).9 OK, again not a fair comparison, and this time we do have several films which have something in common with Rebel Without a Cause: the association of reckless young men and cars, for Australia is almost as much a car culture as is the USA. In fact, the director of Running on Empty (John Clark, 1982) must have had Nicholas Ray’s film in mind, as there are so many similarities. It is one of at least two Australian films in which one of the male leads is prepared to die rather than lose his car: the other being Metal Skin, (1995), from Geoffrey Wright, the director of another notorious social problem film, Romper Stomper (1992). In Running on Empty, Richard Moir rather pointlessly drives his car and himself into a concrete barrier to end the life of both his character Fox and the film. In the more complex Metal Skin, Aden Young’s Joe dies a little bit more like the knight in the armour suggested by the film’s title, after losing his combat with Dazey (Ben Mendelsohn).10 (Mendelsohn is also the hero of another film revolving around a car, The Big Steal (Nadia Tass, 1990), but this one is a romantic comedy.)

The style of the Australian social problem film may have its origins in the long history of documentary film-making in this country. The documenting of activity around Sydney Harbour was the subject of the first film exposed here.11 The first Australian Academy Award was for Short Documentary, for Cinesound Review: Kokoda Front Line (Damien Parer, 1942), which shared the 1942 Award with John Ford’s Battle of Midway. And during the long drought between the Second World War and 1970, when very few feature films were made, Australians continued to shoot docos. So it’s not surprising that when feature film production resumed in the 1970s that some films were documentary in style. The FJ Holden (1977), for example, not only looks like a doco, but was shot in the western suburbs of Sydney where it is set, and used non-professional actors. Michael Thornhill, the director, said that he “wanted to attempt a poetic treatment of social realism”, but it is the social realism that predominates, rather than the poetry.13 Fran and Teesh and Trude have a similar suburban look, mostly from the domestic interiors in which they are set, but also from the pub in the case of the first film and the shopping mall in the second. All three films “document” fictional but true-to-life working-class existences with limited possibilities, as does Mallboy.

As I said at the beginning of this chapter, there is significant overlap with this type of film and others, and I’ve had to refer to crime, melodrama and teenpics, but I still maintain that one can identify the isolation of a specific “social problem” in the films discussed above to justify their separate treatment here. However, several will reappear under other categories.


Notes

1  Marcia Landy 1991, British Genres: Hollywood and Society 1930-1960, Princeton University Press, Princeton: 432, as cited in Steve Neale 2000, Genre and Hollywood, Routledge, London & New York: 113.

2  P. Roffman & J. Purdy 1981, The Hollywod Social Problem Film: Madness, Despair and Politics from the Depression to the Fifties, Indiana University Press, Bloomington: viii, as quoted in Steve Neale 2000: 113.

3  The Boys, 1997, dir. Rowan Woods, available on DVD; Stephen Sewell, The Boys: The Screenplay; Gordon Graham, The Boys, Currency Press, Sydney, 1994, 829.439 G7398B; Dead Heart, 1996, dir. wr. Nick Parsons, available on videotape only; Nicholas Parsons, Dead Heart: The Screenplay, Currency Press, Sydney, 1994, c1990, 829.439 P2718D; Rabbit-Proof Fence, 2001, dir. Phil Noyce, available on DVD; Christine Olsen, Rabbit-Proof Fence: The Screenplay; Angel Baby, 1995, wr. dir. Michael Rymer, available on DVD; Michael Rymer, Angel Baby.

4  A large number of Australian feature films deal to some extent with the effects of some kind of incarceration, including: Blood Money (Chris Fitchett, 1980), Chopper (Andrew Dominik, 2000), Cosi (Mark Joffe, 1996), Dead Heart (Nick Parsons, 1996), Deadly (Esben Storm, 1992), Every Night ... Every Night (Alkinos Tsilimidos, 1994), For the Term of his Natural Life (Norman Dawn, 1927), Fortress (Steve Gordon, 1993), Ghosts ... of the Civil Dead (John Hillcoat, 1989), The Interview (Craig Monahan, 1998), Life (Lawrence Johnston, 1995), No Escape (Martin Campbell, 1994), Stir! (Stephen Wallace, 1980), Turkey Shoot (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1982), and 27A (Esben Storm, 1974).

5  Dave Palmer & Garry Gillard 2002, “Aborigines, ambivalence and Australian film”, Metro, 134: 128-134.

6  Paul Toohey 2001, “A cult of immortality in the fumes”, The Australian, 29 June: 1, 3.

7  Garry Gillard & Lois Achimovich 2003, “The representation of madness in some Australian films”, Journal of Critical Psychology Counselling and Psychotherapy, 3, 1, Spring: 9-19.

8  Garry Gillard 2002, “Teesh and Trude: everyday life as heroic”, Metro, 134: 20-23.

9  Adrian Martin 1995, article on the film in Scott Murray ed. 1995, Australian Film 1978-1994: A Survey of Theatrical Features, 2nd edn, OUP/AFI/Cinema Papers, Melbourne: 274.

10  Other Australian films which involve cars and something like a social problem include: Blood Money (Chris Fitchett, 1980), The Cars that Ate Paris (Peter Weir, 1974), Dead-End Drive In (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1986), Freedom (Scott Hicks, 1982), Midnite Spares (Quentin Masters, 1982), and Running from the Guns (John Dixon, 1987).

11  Graham Shirley & Brian Adams 1989, Australian Cinema: The First Eighty Years, revised edition, Currency Press, Sydney: 7.

12  Shirley & Adams: 166.

13  David Stratton 1980, The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival, Angus & Robertson, Sydney: 89.


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