Stories of Australian Cinema – David Stratton explores our stories

If you love film, as I do, then you’ll find this series, currently screening Tuesday nights at 8.30 pm on the ABC, a must-watch. From Saturday afternoons with dad watching westerns and war movies (with the occasional musical) to my first university lecture with Ann Canny-Francis examining the hero narrative of Star Wars, I have enjoyed the possibilities of understanding humanity through our filmic stories.

Episode 1: Game Changers allows acclaimed film critic David Stratton to share his journey of understanding Australia. The first Australian film he saw was The Overlanders, and so begins a series of clips and stills that effectively represent our iconic landscapes and support many myths, such as that of the ‘bush’. This makes the program a rich and suitable source of related material for many current HSC English modules, and modules from the new Stage 6 syllabus.

A number of luminaries – award winning actors, directors, producers – offer their opinions as to the value of Australian film. Geoffrey Rush believes that we are ‘… a nation of storytellers – that’s pretty goddam special’.

Eric Bana, as Chopper Reid, suggests ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn’.

Students could analyse a series of images to explore and analyse the recurring representations of the Australian landscape – notice how humans are often featured as solitary figures or in small groups. What impression does the viewer develop of our relationship with the land?

Perhaps a close study of the opening five minutes, including the title frame, would be a useful starting point for related material linking the poetry of Judith Wright with the module rubric of Representing People and Landscapes.

Consider how the sequence on Picnic at Hanging Rock and the cinematography of re-creating the landscape of Arthur Streeton could link with Distinctively Visual texts.

The discussion on Jedda, the first Australian feature in colour, and the role of Indigenous film makers provides an effective historical perspective for students developing an understanding of the ongoing struggle for Reconciliation.

Consider, also, the lack of coastal or beach imagery which defies the reality of life for many contemporary Australians who overwhelmingly occupy the edges of this vast continent. Perhaps that’s one of the most interesting stories …

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