Back in the good old days, early 2005 to be precise, when Bruce Hodsdon and I did a submission to some long forgotten review of Government assistance to the Australian film industry we said : Over the last decade there have been no more than a handful of films accepted for the competitions conducted by the three A-list European film festivals in Berlin, Cannes and Venice. By comparison, many more films from other countries in the region (Thailand, Korea, Taiwan especially) are annually accepted for places in the elite competitions. The films from those countries outshine Australia’s best despite far more taxpayer’s money being spent by Australia on film production.
It's been ten years since then, another billion or so has been expended, and you could say the same thing for the decade that followed. Australia is on a twenty year lack of the highest quality films as measured by our success in getting into the three toughest international competitions. The artistic successes such as they have been are modest. Mad Max Fury Road, two films by Rolf de Heer, both on indigenous subjects, Warwick Thornton's Samson and Delilah and some of the other films by Aboriginal film-makers. Struggling, struggling..... Did I overlook anything?
I know you can harp on this forever or until we win another Palme d'Or. As I speak, an Australian film has got itself selected for Venice, the first film to go up against the A-graders of international competition for some little time. Screen Australia's latest paper looking at the current features and difficulties in local distribution can be downloaded here
It has some interesting thoughts:
. We want to ensure that our local films continue to resonate with audiences and to create a cultural legacy for future generations.
. These are challenging times for independent film. In order to maximise opportunities for Australian films in the current environment, our screen industry will need to be ever more strategic. All players will need to maintain a strong focus on the audience through all stages of production and release. As an industry, we will also need to be prepared to innovate around certain kinds of films and to take some risks.
And then there is this, which suggests that some at least are looking a gift horse in the mouth....
. Through the Multiplatform Drama program Screen Australia invests in the production of narrative projects that take risks and push the envelope of fiction storytelling on traditional and non-traditional platforms. Applications may be for any amount up to $500,000 per project. To date, Screen Australia has received no applications for low-budget feature films through this program.
Truly astonishing....and apparently unreported upon as well.