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When the term “new wave” was coined to describe the group of French critics-turned-filmmakers who exploded onto the scene in the early 1960s, it quickly became shorthand for a series of similarly brash, youth-driven film movements concurrently emerging around the globe, from Japan (Shōhei Imamura, Nagisa Oshima, Seijun Suzuki) to Czechoslovakia (Milos Forman, Jiří Menzel, Ivan Passer) to the “new” Hollywood cinema ushered in by Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider. Then there is Australia, where, beginning in the early 1970s and lasting throughout the decade, a sudden resurgence of national film production resulted in yet another “new wave”—the last of this particular era, and one of the most prolific.
Though some of the world’s earliest narrative films were made in Australia—including one, Soldiers of the Cross, that predated Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery by three years—the closing of domestic studio facilities in the 1940s, combined with an absence of government funding for film production, all but ran local film production aground by the late 1960s. But with the creation, in 1971, of the Australian Film Development Corporation, everything changed virtually overnight. Shaking the national film industry out of its mothballed stasis, the Australian New Wave (or Australian Film Revival) launched the careers of a fiercely talented generation of directors (Bruce Beresford, George Miller, Phillip Noyce, Fred Schepisi, Peter Weir) and actors (Bryan Brown, Judy Davis, Mel Gibson, Jacki Weaver), to say nothing of cinematographers (including the future Oscar-winners Russell Boyd, John Seale and Dean Semler), production designers and other craftspeople. Many of the films competed at prestigious festivals including Berlin and Cannes, and it wasn’t long before Hollywood caught on to the rich talent pool available to them “down under”—a love affair that continues unabated to this day.
In a year when Australia promises to deliver two of the most heavily anticipated films in recent memory, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby and George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, we are pleased to present this comprehensive overview of a most extraordinary decade in Aussie filmmaking. This series was made possible with the invaluable assistance of the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia and is dedicated to the memory of Jan Sharp, a great friend to the Film Society and a pioneer figure in Australian documentary filmmaking. Series programmed by Scott Foundas.