Australian Film > Writing > O'Regan, 1990s

Beyond 'Australian film'? Australian cinema in the 1990s

Tom O'Regan

Where do we draw the borders around "Australia"--and do we need to? This is not only a question of the inevitable, unstoppable increase in international co-production. It is a question of self-defined cultural identity, and it impacts on the films we make. (Adrian Martin, 1994: 15)

In the 1970s and 1980s Australian cinema was mostly Australian produced and financed, and centred Australian locations. In the 1990s, Australian directors and Australian-based productions do not just tell stories set in Australia. The production industry is more internationally integrated than at any time in the recent past. And even those self-evidently 'Australian films' with a modest budget, an Australian cast, setting and crew--like P.J. Hogan's Muriel's Wedding (1994) and Rolf de Heer's Bad Boy Bubby (1994)--have some international financing. If such 'Australian' films still account for the majority of the features produced, coproductions and greater international involvement from project inception have become more important as the 1990s brought major structural change to the industry.

The bouyant film and high budget television sectors of the previous decade depended on healthy domestic investment in film and mini-series courtesy of the 10BA tax concessions, a booming economy and commercial television networks prepared to underwrite high budget television. None of these conditions held in the 1990s. 10BA concessions became less generous and so less attractive to investors. The worst economic recession in 50 years from 1989-1992 squeezed capital for production and recovery was then characterised by a general capital shortage within and outside Australia. And there was a near collapse of high-budget mini-series television in the wake of commercial network receiverships for Ten and Seven and sale of Nine leading to subsequent restructurings and downsizing. Film policy making, industry assumptions and the horizons of film personnel all had to change given these limited domestic opportunities. Some film workers left the industry altogether. Others looked to opportunities and investors outside Australia. Government film funding became more important again--particularly through the new federal body, the Australian Film Finance Corporation. Industry thinking and policy making moved towards greater international integration through finance sources for local productions and coproductions as well as attracting 'foreign'/offshore productions to Australia. David Court and Jeremy Bean (1994: 37-8) claim that between the 1988/89 and 1992/93 financial years, the principal investors in Australian associated production of feature films, television drama and documentary were foreign investors with 39% of total investment, followed by government film agencies with 33% and local broadcasters, distributors and private investors with the remaining 28%. In that period, 28 'foreign' productions worth $289m were fully shot in Australia; while 33 productions worth $289m were partially or fully shot overseas. In this five-year period there were 12 official feature co-productions worth $113m (Court and Bean, 1994: 32).

Underwriting these changes were some additional factors. Giving priority to international connections, investment and market orientations fitted broader governmental and political agendas for greater international integration and competitiveness. It also made practical sense given the renewed internationalisation of film production in Europe, North America and Japan brought about by the emergence of more television, video, viable pay-TV operations and a gradual, though uneven, turnaround of cinema attendances after decades of declines in the major Western markets in Europe, Australasia and North America. (This 'internationalisation' did not only favour the big budget film, it also attracted American distributor interest in acquiring Australian and international rights to smaller Australian films.) An increasingly free wheeling internationalism characterized the Australian filmmaking milieu as actors, directors, cinematographers, producers, art directors responded to domestic circumstance and the opportunities created by more international production. These several developments help underwrite an emerging fuzziness around just what is and is not an Australian film. Such internationalism provides one way of thinking about Australian cinema in the 1990s: it accentuates the negotiation and renegotiation of the international boundaries of Australian film by producers, policy makers and critics.

But there is another way of characterising Australian film which takes up the cinema's renegotiation and enlargement of the terms in which the local, the national and society is presented and with this the emerging plot preoccupations and aesthetic norms of Australian cinema over the 1990s. Here the cultural identities offered by Australian cinema are themselves in transition. Some of these preoccupations, most particularly the public policy of multiculturalism which provided an official civic definition of Australia after 1989, accentuated this international connectedness by foregrounding the nationalities making up the Australian people. This gave a centrality to film making set outside the country (which it had previously lacked) whether in Denis O'Rourke's The Good Woman of Bangkok (1992) or Pauline Chan's Traps (1994) (Good Woman is almost entirely set and made in Thailand with a Thai lead, Traps is set in 1950s Vietnam and made in Vietnam and Australia). Multiculturalism also encouraged the recognition of the integrity of various diasporas within Australia as in Michael Jenkins' Heartbreak Kid (1993) and Aleksi Vellis' Nirvana Street Murders (1991) just as it promoted a new local civic and popular multicultural identity for the Australian in titles as diverse as Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom (1992) and John Ruane's Death in Brunswick (1992). In Heartbreak the romance is entirely a Greek Australian affair--signallying Greek Australia as a 'normal' part of Australia and as a diaspora; while in Strictly the romance plot is between an ethnically unmarked 'Australian' man and a non-English speaking background woman. The emerging "Australian" in both films is inescapably hybrid and mixed: in Heartbreak Kid Greek-Australian, in Strictly part older-Anglo Australian and part Spanish Australian.

Cultural diversity was also registered in a variety of other ways. It was the regional in the farming community in David Elfick's No Worries (1993) and Ray Argall's story of a downwardly mobile Adelaide 'family' business in Return Home (1990). Aboriginals and Islanders (John Ricketson's Blackfellas 1993, Moffatt's Night Cries 1990, Esben Storm's Deadly 1993, and Moffatt's beDevil 1993). Geoffrey Wright centred skinheads in Romper Stomper 1992 and rev-heads in his later Metal Skin 1995). Gay and lesbian themed features include Geoff Burton and Kevin Dowling's The Sum of Us (1994) and Ann Turner's Dallas Doll (1994). Marginal sexual identities were explored by Stephan Elliott in his story of two transvestites and a transexual on the road to Alice Springs in Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert 1994). John Duigan explored sexual ambiguity in Sirens 1994). And there was a high-profile cycle of women centred stories beginning in late 1989 with Jane Campion's Sweetie and continuing through to titles like Gillian Armstrong's Last Days of Chez Nous (1992) and Muriel's Wedding. Varieties of religious experience were part of Paul Cox's Exile (1994) and Bob Ellis' Nostradamus Kid (1993). Critics talk of and festival curators create seasons of films based on a group of Melbourne films focussing on that city's underbelly presenting a new urban cinema under the title "urban edge" with films as diverse as Nadia Tass's comedy The Big Steal (1990), Jocelyn Moorhouse's Proof (1991) Ana Kokkinos' Only the Brave (1994), Mark Joffe's Spotswood (1992) and Leo Berkeley's Holidays on the River Yarra (1991) screening alongside Nirvana Street Murder, Romper Stomper, Death in Brunswick and The Heartbreak Kid.

Renegotiating the International

Peter Weir's romantic comedy, Green Card (1991), is typical of the high budget strand of Australian film making in the 1990s: it has an Australian director, it is funded by French and Australian investors and its post-production was carried out in Australia. It is a French/Australian co-production. It is set and lensed in New York and is the story of a 'marriage of convenience' between a French man played by Gerard Depardieu and an American played by Andy McDowall. He marries for permanent residency in the US and she to secure an apartment only available to a married woman. The comedy and the developing romance between the two evolves once they are subject to an official investigation over the status of their 'marriage'. Yet unlike the rapid fire comedy dialogue of similar Hollywood romantic comedies casting opposites--physically, emotionally, intellectually, Green Card has a slower delivery of dialogue, and is consequently more muted, slow and obs erved. It remains true to the green card experience of the Depardieu character speaking and mastering English as a second language. This and the film's ending where the Depardieu character is deported at the precise moment the couple love each other signify the intrusion of the European-Australian "reality principle" which refuses to solve the problem in a happy ending but instead substitutes a new dilemma for the old one. There are no onscreen Australians in front of the camera. It is, with its Film Finance Corporation backing, Peter Weir's "Australian film" of the 1990s.

For its part, Black Robe (1992) is Bruce Beresford's "Australian film". There are a host of Australians in the crew and one in the cast in Aden Young (who grew up in Canada). It is a Canadian/Australian co-production. It is also a Canadian film set in Canada telling the story of colonization and most particularly the religious colonization of the Indian peoples of Quebec. At my local video library Black Robe is located on the "festival" shelves and marketed on the dustjacket as in continuity with the director's 1980 classic, Breaker Morant. Black Robe is also an example of the increasingly formalised association between the government funding agencies of the former Commonwealth countries of Canada-Australia-UK-New Zealand. The policy priority to pursue greater production, policy and industry links between these countries to better coordinate and integrate their markets to mutual benefit, parallels the relatively integrated "Commonwealth" film market of the 1950s involving these same countries.

Then there are the films--most notably Vincent Ward's Map of the Human Heart (1993) and Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World (1992)--which have no nationality in any strict sense. Map is a four country co-production described by Adrian Martin (1994: 15) as a 'crazy, male fantasy'. It tells a love story between an Inuit man and woman (who passes for white) stretching across Europe and North America from before the second world war to the present. It turns on the filmmaker's taking the Inuit man's point of view, detailing his fascination with, experience of and ultimate rejection of a western civilization that wrenched indigenous children from their 'culture' and each other, that brought on the ravages of European diseases to native populations, and the fire bombing of German cities. Continuing this hybrid of nationalities: Ward is himself an Australian-based New Zealander and his scriptwriter is the Australian playright Louis Nowra. There is one identified Australian in a minor role played by Ben Mendelsohn (whose character is worried he will die before he has had sex, his worries prove founded).

Wim Wenders claims that his Australian-German-French coproduction Until the End of the World is the 'ultimate road movie'. The script comes from Wenders and Peter Carey--the Booker Prize winning Australian novelist (author of Bliss and Oscar and Lucinda). Carey's contribution is in evidence for, as Raffaele Caputo notes, the film is not simply a road movie but also 'a detective film, a science-fiction adventure and a family melodrama' conveying some of the multigeneric characteristics of Carey's fiction. The film is also characteristically Wenders in its structuring polarities 'the desire for sight turning into blindness, selfless love turning into narcissism, aimless wandering as opposed to a homeland' (Caputo 1993: 351). The story which begins in Germany with Claire's (Solveign Dommartin's) accidental involvement as a courier for money stolen in an armed robbery, turns into her pursuit of and obsession about the man she gives a lift to, Sam Farber (William Hurt). Claire, Burt (Ernie Dingo) the Aboriginal bounty hunter (the black tracker myth updated?), her husband Eugene (Sam Neill) and the detective he hires Philip Winter (Rudiger Vogler), track Farber across Europe, Japan the US and finally arrive in an Aboriginal community in the Central Australian desert where Farber's father (Max von Sydow) and mother (Jeanne Moreau) live. There the father fulfils his lifelong ambition to give his wife sight (she dies soon after), the Aborigines leave disturbed by the father, Sam and Claire engage in a dangerously destructive 'dreaming' leading to the death of the former and the eventual rescue of Claire by Eugene and Sam by his Aboriginal family.

A similar attenuated Australian connection is evident in Jane Campion's The Piano (1993). It was set in New Zealand and made by an New Zealand director and of its three principals two were American and one a New Zealander. The Australian connection is solely that the AFC provided Campion with script development money and that Campion is Sydney-based, was trained at the AFTRS, and has used Australian film subsidy and production regimes to develop her talent and film properties. Yet The Piano is not simply another international production with some Australian involvement, it also represents Australasian filmmaking and a growing convergence and integration of the Australian and New Zealand filmmaking sectors reminiscent of the integrated market that existed before television. Sweetie, The Piano, Map of the Human Heart and An Angel at My Table are just some of the high profile 'mixed productions' involving Australian and New Zealand collaborations of creative personnel becoming an unexceptionable part of the cinema landscape. The 1990s also saw the return of New Zealand to the Australian imagination after so long being a 'poor relation'. New Zealand lensed and set films gained significant audiences and acclaim from the Australian market as An Angel at My Table (1990) and The Piano was followed up by Lee Tamahori's Once were Warriors (1994) and Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures (1995). Campion's films project in these terms an Australasian identity reflecting the close economic, cultural political, social and historical links between Australia and New Zealand and the significant New Zealand migrant presence in Australia. Campion's, Weir's, Beresford's, Ward's and Wenders' films represent an acceptable internationalism which can be seen to preserve 'cultural integrity' without too evident a 'commercialism'. It is most critically hinged on being an auteur cinema as the filmmaker and his or her Antipodean co-workers are in control of the creative vision and production. These films are the high profile and high budget co-productions from established directors. In each there is a specific Australian/Australasian connection. They represent "Australian" works. They show that for a filmmaker to make a 'quality' blockbuster in the 1990s requires a project with an international setting and connection--and Australian involvement more behind than in front of the camera.

In each of these cases, critics, audiences and filmmakers are invited to recognize and celebrate what Ross Gibson (1992: 81) has called an 'international contamination' of Australian cinema. The result is a cosmopolitanism interested not so much in what separates Australia from the world but in their commonalities. Only with such a cosmopolitanism in place, such a confusion between the world and the Australian can Campion's high profile 1990s films--An Angel at My Table and the Cannes and Academy Award winning The Piano, all made in New Zealand with varying degrees of Australian involvement--be claimed so widely as 'Australian films'.

The same cosmopolitanism can project the the work of Australian directors and cinematographers on overseas film projects as an attenuated continuation of Australian cinema. This is a particularly strong invitation when Gillian Armstrong (Little Women 1994), Peter Weir (Fearless 1994) and Dr George Miller (Lorenzo's Oil 1993) continue a strong Australian connection in the production and post-production. So Armstrong's version of Little Women invited comparisons not only with the previous versions of the story but to Armstrong's revival classic My Brilliant Career (1979). Similarly critics wonder about the Australian connection in other projects: Dean Semler's award-winning cinematography on Dances with Wolves (1990) which brought Australian landscape cinematography to the prairies. Then there is the renowned adaptability of Australian directors like Simon Wincer who made the children's film Free Willy (1993) which made more money in international release than did The Piano. Fred Schepisi suggests that these involvements are a natural extention of aspects of culture in Australia:

it's easier for Australians to go and work in that area [Hollywood, universal film]--and I don't mean to sell out and commercial films and bland, mass appeal things. It's the way we grew up: we didn't necessarily grow up with a great culture of our own only; as much, if not more, we grew up with English culture and American culture. . . . So it's not like we're going over and working in some strange area entirely. (Schepisi to Koval 1992:42)

A cosmopolitanism can also be found in the medium to lower production budget end of 'Australian' film making. The Polish director Jerzy Domaradzki made Struck by Lightning in 1990 (one of my favourites in a local cycle of films about people with disabilities). De Heer's Jazz film, Dingo (1992), opens a space for cross-cultural appropriations as the dingo-trapper of the title listens to, appreciates and transforms the concepts, ideas and musical phrases of his hero, the Afro-American jazz legend played by Miles Davis--and in so doing creates the authentic 'outback sound'. The success of Peter Faiman/Paul Hogan's Crocodile Dundee (1986) and Yahoo Serious' Young Einstein (1988) encouraged further stories connecting the Australian and the American on American soil in the 'blockbuster failures' from Paul Hogan/Simon Wincer (Lightning Jack 1994) and Yahoo Serious (Reckless Kelly 1993). A more emergent Australasian/American dialogue turns on a troublesome American woman in Australasia in Ann Turner's Dallas Doll and in Marie Maclean's New Zealand film Crush (1993). These are permutations of earlier experiments clashing the male American and female Australian in Dusan Makavejev's Coca-Cola Kid (1985) and Simon Wincer's Quigly (1991).

Philip Brophy 'Australianized' the splatter movie in his Body Melt (1994)--yoking it to the Crawford police series investigation format of Homicide. Strictly Ballroom, the 'event film' of the early 1990s, was not only a 'multicultural film', but 'simultaneously a camp vehicle and a straight-sappy Garland-Rooney musical' (Horton, 1993: 6). Its director, Baz Luhrmann, underlined the Hollywood musical connection by emphasizing the continuity between Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donan 1952) and An American in Paris (Vincente Minnelli, 1951) and Paul Mercurio in Strictly. Like Kelly, Mercurio dances through almost the entire film--all his movements are evidently choreographed rather than blocked out; and in the best musical tradition the prototypically utopian finale makes dance a universal condition. Luhrmann also suggested that the ballroom world was 'a metaphor, or a microcosm, of the world at large' in which 'people's desires are so passionately expressed' (Luhrmann quoted in Taylor 1992: 8). Peter Castaldi claimed in 1994 that Strictly 'reinvented the dance film' internationally.

This internationalism is different from previous versions because many of these directors, cinematographers and actors maintain Australian connections. Some like Campion and Armstrong operate from an Australian base; others like actors Wendy Hughes and Anthony Lapaglia operate from an overseas base coming back to Australia for local roles. Alongside this flexibility of labour is a flexibility of capital which as Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (1985: 154) notes 'crosses frontiers at the touch of a telex'. Both conditions have destabilised 'the relations between national industries' with some films having 'no nationality in a meaningful sense'. Like the British situation Nowell-Smith observes, production in Australia is no longer the same as Australian-originated films; nor does it need to have much to do with Australian culture for Australian consumption. And nowhere is this last point clearer than in the increasingly significant development of Australia as a significant off-shore production and facilities centre for international companies. These are attracted to Australia by favourable exchange rates, competitive production and crewing costs (claimed to be 25-30% less than Los Angeles costs), a state of the art studio at the Gold Coast and the capacity of Australian locations able to double as American, European, Asian locations and 'geographically unspecific' locations. To date the products--blockbuster action features like Fortress (1993), Sniper (1994), Escape from Absolon (1994) and Street Fighter (1995)--have been, by and large, quarantined from being seen as part of the Australian cinema; its welcome international contamination and a preparedness to confuse itself with the world. The Australian Film Commission's (AFC) Get the Picture (1994) lists Stuart Gordon's Fortress as a 'foreign film'. But as Cinema Paper's editor Scott Murray rhetorical question demonstrates there are good reasons for seeing it as Australian:

Why is Fortress, a film shot entirely in Australia and part-financed and -produced (in a company sense) by the Australian Village Roadshow Pictures, called "foreign", whereas The Piano is considered totally Australian, despite being entirely shot in New Zealand and French-financed? (Murray 1995: 53)

Fortress opened to uniformly bad reviews in Australia. But it was succesful enough in Australian and international release to lead to a sequel. Its setting in an electronic jail of the future in the USA where it is impossible to escape or even have the desire to do so. Enter a determined husband and wife--both imprisoned in the same jail--for conceiving a child after their first child died at birth. It is unashamedly genre-action cinema.

But why draw the boundary of Australian film to exclude Fortress? There are several reasons different actors might do this. As coproductions are intergovernmental treaties administered by national film commissions films like Until the End of the World are regarded as Australian while those made outside a coproduction arrangement like Fortress are not. The critical creative control functions of director and producer are not Australians or Australian residents. The product is generated outside Australia and brought to it. The story is not set in Australia but the US in the future. It is not a 'quality' film but an openly generic and exploitation feature. And lastly its director is a North American rather than a New Zealander, Canadian, Britisher, German or French person.

With Qld's success in attracting offshore production in the early 1990s each state film agency now pursues 'foreign production'. In October 1994, Greg Smith, Director of the NSW Film and Television Office claimed that his organization was 'bidding for $US250 million worth of foreign production' (Sydney Morning Herald, 22/10/1994). The Queensland agency, The Pacific Film and Television Commission (so named to indicate its international dimensions) claimed that the value of overseas films shot in that state was $142 million for the 1993/94 (Hay, 1994). Competition among the different state film authorities for offshore production has become intense with each state organization promoting its advantages (Qld offers 'more unique locations with rainforests and beaches and the LA look' and Sydney and NSW offer a 'major metropolis, closeness to an international airport, the beauty of Sydney and the production centre of the Australian film industry').

Productions like Fortress and the infrastructures necessary to sustain them are attractive because of their 'industry benefits': they keep technicians and crews in work, they help stem 'the brain drain' to Hollywood, they recoup some of 'the government subsidies for Australian film and television' (Urban 1994), they ensure, in however diluted a form, an Australian place in emerging pay-TV and video environments, and they help maintain and renovate Australian production capacity and facilities. This last is particularly important in a deregulated environment as restrictions on overseas produced television commercials have been eased (these restrictions underwrote state-of-the-art infrastructures) and as free-to-air television declines under the pressure of the new television technologies. For Toby Miller (1994)

The Gold Coast Studio sets up a third tier in Australian-based screen production in addition to notions of culturally valuable film culture and commercially driven film industrialism. It is a floating multinational space, such that some accuse it reflexively of promoting 'cultural imperialism'.

Australian filmmaking will not continue to be isolated from these productions. Peter Thompson observes that '[a]lmost no locally produced films can afford to use the new studio facilities because Australian budgets are pegged by various factors at about the $3 million mark'. He suggests that 'a two-tier industry could develop with the top rank eventually pricing itself out of the international marketplace and the indigenous industry strangled by lack of capital investment' (Herald Sun 24/10/1994).

There is by no means universal enthusiasm for the varieties of internationalisation represented by Green Card, Black Robe, Fortress, The Piano and Lightning Jack. These may simply, in Meaghan Morris' (1992: 97) words, streamline 'work to be "interesting" to American and European audiences (according to a commercial judgement of what those interests are)'. Morris finds something 'troubling' in this as it produces films and cultural criticism with possibly 'tenuous links . . . to Australian social conditions'. With various kinds of cultural nationalism now foreclosed as options it is a question of 'how to act in this situation without inventing a nostalgia for an unchanging, introverted (and imaginary) "national" culture'. In some sense this is the central problem worked on in that 'other tier' of filmmaking that of the 'indigenous', locally produced film. Here the renegotiations of the Australian and the Australian film are particularly instructive.

Renegotiating the Australian Film

Some of the characteristics of Australian cinema in the 1990s can be found in Jane Campion's first feature, Sweetie, released in Semptember 1989. Most obviously it is the feature film debut of the high profile antipodean director of the 1990s. Thomas Elsaesser cites Campion in the same breath as David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, Stephen Frears, Luc Besson and Dario Argento as directors valued for their command of the cinema's resources--'the generic, the expressive, the excessive, the visual and the visceral' (Elsaesser 1994: 26)--and for 'their capacity to concentrate on a tour de force'. Campion is the model director of the 1990s just as Weir, Schepisi and Beresford were collectively in the 1970s and early 1980s for a generation of filmmakers, critics and policy makers.

Campion is the first of the 'new wave' of feature directors who redefined the public face of Australian cinema in the 1990s. Some of the most successful and high profile films of the 1990s were either their director's first features--Jocelyn Moorhouse with Proof (1991), Geoffrey Wright with Romper Stomper, Baz Luhrmann with Strictly Ballroom, Paul J. Hogan with Muriel's Wedding, Ray Argall with Return Home, John Ruane with Death in Brunswick, Geoff Burton and Kevin Dowling with The Sum of Us--or the second features of their directors--Stephan Elliott with The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. Additionally, many highly regarded--although not always commercially successful 1990s releases--were the work of first-time or second time directors: Jackie McKimmie (Waiting 1991), Tracey Moffatt (be-Devil) and Pauline Chan (Traps) and Vellis (Nirvana Street Murders). These films begin a process of generational change in Australian film making. (Directors from the 1970s and 1980s continued to make high profile films: de Heer made Bad Boy Bubby and Jenkins The Heartbreak Kid.)

These first or second time films open up a characteristic of the 1990s box-office for 'longshots' to become 'favourites' (Longshots to Favourites is Mary Anne Reid's 1993 title for her study of three such films--Proof, Romper Stomper and Strictly Ballroom). With the exception of international blockbusters set outside Australia, the Australian box-office became increasingly dependent on "sleepers": low budget films that exceeded all expectations for success. But these were not 'sleepers' of the Mad Max (Dr George Miller, 1979) variety. They were films from directors whose national and international careers were established through international film festival screenings of their shorts and features. The importance of the festivals and with it a foregronded relation between Australian cinema and the international art cinema, Australian cinema increasingly resembled the filmmaking between 1974 and 1980 when there was a similar turn towards Europe and attention paid to gaining recognition in the international European and North American festivals. Then there was also a shortage of Australian investors and the industry needed to rely on 'first time' directors to give the Australian industry a palpable form.

In making Sweetie, Campion took the 'short films' she had become internationally famous for and made them longer without sacrificing their signature 'look'. As Campion reported

When I made them [my short films], I never thought in the future I'd have the opportunity to make such personal, off-the-wall films. But then I saw how people enjoyed them, and I thought I'd like to make a feature which went even further than they did. I decided I didn't want to ape the kind of films made by other people: I wanted to invent my own. (Stratton, 1990: 373).

In doing so, she legitimated the Australian Film Commission's policy of developing talent and stylistic and plot innovation through the short film. Campion provided an example for subsequent filmmakers in which filmmakers would be encouraged as much as possible to keep and extend their concerns and signatures evolved from the short film onto their features. In critical and marketing terms, her short film's prestigious international circulation created expectations for the director's long awaited first feature. The same situation held through the 1990s for other directors of acclaimed shorts who subsequently went onto feature productions: Tracey Moffatt followed up Night Cries with beDevil, Laurie McInnis followed up Pallisades with Broken Highway, Geoffrey Wright followed Lover Boy with Romper Stomper.

In Sweetie and films like Strictly Ballroom, Muriel's Wedding and Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert a space is created for a celebrated 'quirkiness', 'eccentricity' and 'individuality'. In these the banality and richness of contemporary, usually urban settings and culture, are foregrounded and turned away from their usual moorings in realist social problem filmmaking. Sweetie's enumeration of what Marie Crawford and Adrian Martin called 'a world defined, at a fundamentally banal and everyday level, by alienation, irresolution and incohesion' (Crawford and Martin 1989:56) is also the domain stories like Return Home, No Worries (until its utopian ending) and A Woman's Tale (Cox, 1991). Peter Castaldi praises Strictly Ballroom for its combination of the conventional romance fairy tale and Australian suburbia, its back streets and its dreams. This combination 'liberates the suburban from the grip of the realists and lets fantasy run free' (Castaldi 1994). The film's makers 'took the back streets of any town and dressed them up in the most colourful, outrageous and wickedly witty way' and so prepared the way for Priscilla and Muriel's Wedding.

Sweetie also signposts a significant innovation for women in Australian cinema in the 1990s. Despite the still unequal numbers of women involved behind and in front of the camera, driving the story and the large disparity between male and female performers, the Australasian cinema in the 1990s represents one of the 'best scenarios' for women in front of and behind the camera of any cinema in the world.

One of the innovations in 1990s cinema lies in the characters of Sweetie and her sister Kay. They are the first of the many female 'freaks and monsters' which became a feature of 1990s Australasian cinema. Sweetie and Kay are the feminine version of the male monsters and freaks that have so peopled Australian revival cinema and given it its 'masculinist' edge. Campion and later directors appropriated the repertoires of Australian ugliness and vitality and translated these across the gender divide. They opened out a terrain of representation for Australian women in which they can be energetic, daggy, ugly, freakish and simply unconventional. Like the later Muriel and Bubby's truly awful mother in Rolf de Heer's Bad Boy Bubby, Sweetie is awful, gross, overweight, out of control and vital. She exacts a price of those around her particularly her parents and sister Kay.

Sweetie is also part of a cycle of women-centred narratives. While some male directors are involved--Richard Franklin returned from Hollywood to make Hotel Sorrento (1995), P.J. Hogan made Muriel's Wedding and Denis O'Rourke The Good Woman of Bangkok (1992)--most of these narratives have had female directors. Jackie McKimmie made (Waiting), Gillian Armstrong (Last Days of Chez Nous from a Helen Garner script), and Susan Lambert (Talk 1994). In these films, there is a displacement of heterosexual romance as a goal of the plot and its substitution by relations between women. As in Sweetie the relationship between sisters is foregrounded in Last Days and Hotel Sorrento.

Within this cycle of women-centred narratives Lizzie Francke (1993: 18) finds an 'Australasian new female wave' in a 'new generation of women directors from Australasia'. These directors--Ann Turner, Alison Maclean and Tracey Moffatt--are 'marked by a similarly skewed vision of the world, particularly when it comes to the traditional female preoccupations of family and friends.' Take Turner's Dallas Doll. Self-consciously affirmative, the film insists on unconventional choices. Women are agents not just victims of circumstances beyond their control. As in influential contemporary feminist thought (Monique Wittig, Luce Irigaray), the lesbian provides a utopian space in which women can define themselves and their sexuality for themselves rather than in relation to men. Dallas Doll is also unusual for an Australian film; as Barbara Creed put it in 1993 (11) '[l]esbians do not exist in mainstream Australian film'. Here the lesbian romance in Dallas Doll becomes the agency for character self-actualization. Dallas Doll (played by Sarah Bernhart) manipulates everyone including her lover Rosalind played by Victoria Longley to gain her own ends. And Rosalind, as the lover/mother upper middle class housewife, finds her voice, herself sexually and her dream as a farmer via Dallas. Dallas is an at times malevolent trickster figure--a female Frankfurter of the Rocky Horror Picture Show who manipulates people so they become what they wanted to be all along. Although heterosexual desire and coupling are depicted, they are marginalized and made unnatural (the son who loses his virginity to Dallas Doll does so in a copulation scene designed not to eroticize but to render heterosex bestial and unnatural: the convention of chirping birds to 'love making' in the fields are turned on their head as the birds become voyeurs interrupting and objecting to an unnatural and scarcely erotic coupling). The erotic charge and central romance structure is between the two women as they play strip naked three times over the course of the film.

Unlike Campion's The Piano, where the woman's movement is between two men--one of whom becomes the agency by which she develops as a person and learns to speak (just as she transforms him in her turn)--in Dallas Doll women do not need men for anything. Women can realize themselves without men getting in the way. (For this reason The Piano could be seen as ambiguous and regressive by some feminists, the feminist ideal of independence required either the Holly Hunter character's death or having nothing to do with men at the end.) The Piano suggests implication and 'hetero-identification', whereas Dallas Doll is about the auto-identification of self-creating women. Dallas Doll has none of the ambiguities of The Piano in which the female and male are complicit and implicated. Instead it uses lesbianism as its utopian moment, allowing for female eroticism in relation to women just as it compromises and denaturalizes it with men.

Each represents options for mainstreaming feminist perspectives in Australian filmmaking. One recolonizes the filmmaking and film performance archive showing and affirming the central role of women in it (this extends to the set of a Campion shoot where on one day all the crew are expected to wear a dress; apparently it helps Campion feel at ease with the men on her crew if she sees them in a dress). The film of a woman's passion for her music and her lover in The Piano refuses 'woman as victim' and the doomed scenario for the 19th century heroine (just as the film plays with this, affirming life and her love) while objectifying and eroticizing the Harvey Keital figure as we look with her at him.

Campion and Armstrong's 'recolonizing' of the filmic and performance archive leads to small changes of emphasis in other areas. Australian cinema's cycle of 'female friendly' teen-pics--Michael Jenkins' The Heartbreak Kid, David Elfick's Love in Limbo (1993) and Dean Murphy's Lex and Rory (1993)--are something more than male coming of age films. The mother in Love in Limbo is unexpectedly centred and is neither humiliated nor made the victim of the 'ladies man' who pursues her. Her journey of sexual reawakening--she is a widow--parallels that of her nerd son. The difference: she has good sex while her son's attempt to lose his virginity in a Kalgoorlie brothel develops into high farce as he is caught up in a "union dispute" between the prostitutes and management. Lex and Rory insists that the Dai figure has on-screen autonomy--turning her into something more than the teen pic's male hero's love interest--as the film centres her story and Lex becomes the means for her to establish identity, desires and future outside her father's ambition that she run a used-car yard with him. In The Heartbreak Kid there is as much interest in the teacher/lover played by Claudia Karvan and her journey towards maturity and self-affirmation as there is in the similar journey by the male (outlaw) student played by Alec Dimitriades. The film takes care to show just how young emotionally and sexually she is, and how dutiful and repressed she is by her family despite her age.

The second feminist strategy--as in Dallas Doll, Ana Kokkinos' acclaimed Only the Brave (1994) and the 'queer' shorts like Monica Pellizari's Just Desserts--attempts to create another separate and new space. Female protagonists are centered and foregrounded; they drive the story. Marginal and gender bending identities and sexualities are explored alongside complex relations within the family and between the women/adolescent girls. The goal is not simply a woman centred story-telling but a means of exploring new ways of rendering women characters in narration. And this too has it consequences in mainstream representation. Female characters are 'married' as in Muriel's Wedding (this is, after all, what the two women who leave together can look forward to--the companionability and ordinariness of a life together: in short the traditional marriage).

In John Duigan's Sirens (1994) the emergence of heterosexuality and homosexuality as two poles of sexual experience, encourages the emergence of a middle bisexual term to consciously exploit sexual ambiguities in story-telling. The sirens of the title are the sexually liberated women who pose for the controversial artist, Norman Lindsay, in the 1920s and 1930s. The fulcrum of the story is shifted from Lindsay and the clergyman conducting an intellectual argument about Lindsay's work, pornography, and sexuality to the relationship between the models and the clergyman's wife, Estella played by Tara Fitzgerald. Over the course of the film she is sexually liberated. This is achieved through her bonding with the women, with the 'blind' male artist model who turns out not to be blind, and a coming to terms with the bush. Duigan reworks the Lindsay story so Lindsay becomes a chronicler of these women's autonomous sexuality and power. His fantastic mythological Amazonian women are made into 'realistic' depictions. Estella has two 'orgasmic experiences'. One with the male model she goes to. The other as she floats naked in the water in a rock pool and she imagines the other female models stroking and caressing her naked body. Lindsay, played by Sam Neill, paints this last stage of the chronicle by inserting the woman as another of the sirens on his recently completed large canvass. These parallel lines of action make the bush into a place of sexual myth.

The prevalence of such ambiguous sexual moments in 1990s film encouraged columnist Mike Gibson to see Muriel's Wedding as 'different' and a welcome return to normality(!) in his regular column for the Daily Telegraph-Mirror

What makes Muriel's Wedding even more remarkable in the current Australian movie making climate it that it's a film about heterosexuals. The romantic scenes actually feature men making love to women . . . . There are a lot of good things happening in this country. (7/10/1994)

Besides the film's insistence that it is women making love to men--the film is not so clearly straightforward. Ultimately, it is a film about the friendship and bond between two women. This friendship--not bonding with a man--is the best thing in Muriel's life. The heterosexual scenes are opportunities for broad comedy with the single exception of one between Muriel and her husband after her mother's funeral. And the one really romantic scene is that between Muriel and her friend on the tropical island--where they lie head to head and talk.

By contrast, David Elfick's No Worries and Ray Argall's Return Home stress the cultural particularity of regional and rural Australia. Each film foregrounds the significant migration to the metropolitan city from the provinces. Both films are about diminishing living standards and downward mobility that is a marked feature of the lower middle class and working class experience over the 1980s and 1990s.

In No Worries the farming and pastoral community represented are no longer privileged markers of the 'Australian' and the 'backbone of the nation'. They are simply another of the cultures that make up Australia. The rural communities devestated by falling commodity prices and drought in the 1980s and early 1990s become in the process simply No Worries is unremittingly bleak as 11 year old Matilda loses her home, her space and her friends as her parents lose their family farm and livelihood under the impacts of interest rates, drought and falling world commodity prices. The family become another group of displaced people making their journey to Sydney to start again in the alien multicultural city. After spending two thirds of the film sympathetically detailing the persistence across so many generations of farming of a distinctive Australian rural community with its own lifeways and traditions, the film rewrites Matilda and her family's culture as that of another immigrant culture by its move to the city. The film shows how different the city culture was from the rural culture and it creates an homology between the experience of the dispossessed Matilda and her 'friend', a Vietnamese refugee. Matilda sits blankly in a class-room and hears as an exemplary moral lesson--how everyone apart from the Aborigines and Islanders were once 'boat people'. The film's logic falters uneasily as Matilda's rural culture must, by this logic, also be a diasporic culture (but of what? In the film's logic she has migrated to another country, the Australian city--but from where: the Australian countryside?) The older Australian becomes in this logic a diaspora without a homeland--or rather a diaspora whose homeland is a disappearing Australia. A utopian resolution is found as Matilda is prevented from drowning by the class mate and her older relative, just as her father connects for the first time in a meaningful way with his new multicultural city experience via the Vietnamese girl's relative--a convergence of the older Australian 'bushie' and the new Australian Asian.

Whereas Matilda loses her home, Return Home is more optimistic as one of the characters, Noel is rehabilitated by his journey home to Adelaide. The film is structured as a dialogue between two brothers, Steve (Adelaide) and Noel (metropolitan Melbourne). Each has what the other lacks. Steve owns a failing small garage business but he has family. Noel has no family but is successful and has big city Melbourne values. We are invited to read their different values in relation to the changing geographic 'landscape' of Australia. The narrative is resolved in favour of provincial Adelaide and family as Noel returns to lend his skills to rejuvenate his brother's business. This affirmation of home has a utopian dimension as Adelaide and South Australia have bleaker prospects compared to the booming economies of Queensland and Western Australia and the industrial heartlands of Sydney and Melbourne. Here Adelaide can be remade by the sons and daughters it has lost to the metropole coming back.

Watching Return Home I was struck by the many parallels between it and Edgar Reitz's mini-series Heimat (Germany 1984). Both Australian and German cities have a deeply provincial character, with competing regional centres having different outlooks. There is the same 'rootlessness' as a post-war order was made and fashioned as a significant "break with the past". Both have significant internal migration (in Australia's case north to Queensland and west to Western Australia; and to Australia's two metropolis cities--Sydney and Melbourne). Both also have significant external migration. Return Home's regionalism is achieved through his suburban characters, the language, and the minute, often nostalgic descriptions of everyday life in the spacious single story suburbs of Adelaide. The film interweaves ideas of provincialism and homeland--giving voice to that other side of Australian life--its provincial character whose historical dimension has often simply been elided and ignored in Australian cinema. Here the suburban heartland is centred on the nuclear family, its local horizons, the immediate and locality-bound networks which are gently opposed to the modern city Melbourne and its alienated vision of glass.

Like Heimat, Return Home consistently exploits the tension between staying and leaving, between longing for distant places and homesickness. (Franklin's Hotel Sorrento works on a similar tension among expatriats).

We are invited to take our time as we appreciate it. Reitz's invitations to viewers not to 'make other plans while this film is showing, be sure you have a little peace and quiet, stop the hectic pace of your daily life, and enjoy the beauty in the film, a modest, simple beauty that has now become a rarity' (quoted in Kaes 1989: 170) easily extend to the pace and aesthetics of Return Home. Can't we likewise interpret Argall's films as a troubling objection to the changes wrought on traditional Australian communities struggling to keep their lives, hopes and lifeways intact with declining economic circumstance and profound structural change?

For its part Esben Storm's feature Deadly played with the social problem of structural racism in a country town as a pretext to fool the audience and retrain them to see the 'real' crime behind the casual "Aboriginal death in custody" statistic: and that is the police officer's (and the non-Aboriginal) crime of passion. He murders his Aboriginal prisoner for the prisoner's affair with and subsequent child by his wife. Aboriginal-white relations are redrawn mythically as family matters. They are not 'out there'--but where they belong in the (Australian) family. It is an unreadable thriller because this textual politics is transgressive. It remakes the Aboriginal as (social) victim into a story of Aboriginal agency and ordinary crime. Deadly's take is that the reality of Aboriginal/white sexual relations, elicit desire, love, passion is just as structural to the history of country towns and families as police and rednecks who need race awareness training supplied from the city.

Racism is also a feature of the most controversial film of the first half of the 1990s, Romper Stomper. Centring skinheads, racist violence, gay bashing, police killing . . . the film was taken to task--and defended--for its 'moral' credentials. Was it valorizing the skinheads? Was it endorsing racist violence through its magnetic performances by Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock and Jacqueline McKenzie (remember 'one in six Vietnamese adolescents have suffered, or has been threateaned with physical violence based on racism' (Lombard 1993:18))? Was its depiction of Vietnamese defending themselves racist? Was it an adequate portrayal of the suburb in which it was set? And above all, was it right for Australians to make this kind of film?

The film follows the lives of the neo-Nazi skinheads. Hando's (Russell Crowe) gang moves from racist thugs to victims of large-scale retribution by the local Vietnamese who destroy their home. They subsequently acquire 'new digs' through violently evicting and verbally abusing a gay couple from their squat. Gabe (Jacqueline McKenzie), by then Hando's epileptic 'girlfriend', orchestrates an 'excessive' retribution on her rich father and his house for his incestual abuse of her. The emerging love triangle between Hando, Gabe and Davey (Daniel Pollock) triggers the breakup of the gang as Dave moves out of Hando's orbit into Gabe's. Acting in revenge for Hando's treatment of her, Gabe betrays the whereabouts of the remains of the group to the police. They police arrest most of the group killing a the child member of the gang in the process. Hando, who escapes, subsequently hounds Gabe now with Davey. He forces them into an armed robbery where he kills a shopkeeper. In a climactic finale, Hando tries to kill Gabe for setting fire to their car and Dave and Gabe together kill Hando while Japanese tourists look on.

Perhaps most contentious of all, the social problems documented--violence, incest, gangs, misogyny, racism--are not treated as the issue. They function as maguffins as in so many American thrillers/investigation stories. Some reckoned it was bad filmmaking to have the Vietnamese so quickly disappear (they thought the film was about race relations). But for others this also represented the maturity of the film: a preparedness to hinge these 'problems' as 'family matters', not externally out there, but implicating us not as pretext but as subtext. We, the audience, are made to sympathize with Hando (an extreme position) to all the better turn on him and reject him later as an evil monster we want dead (an equally extreme position). It excited the cinephile imagination for its cinematic achievement as 'nowhere to be found [was] the patchiness in acting and directing that has blighted several Australian films' (Epstein 1992: 24-5).

Stomper's public critical divisions showed just how brutally confronting it was: David Stratton on the SBS-TV program, The Movie Show, could not bring himself to talk about it--saying it should not have been made. By contrast, his co-host, Margaret Pomerantz extolled the film's virtues. For filmmaker Teck Tan and critic Chris Berry it was anti-Asian. Tan said 'I was put in the position of Asian victim again, and it didn't do much for my psychology' (Berry 1993: 44). Daniel Scharf, the producer, defended it by recalling his family's Holocaust history and director Geoffrey Wright argued that skinheads were an integral part of Australian public culture.

Perhaps most contentious of all, the social problems documented--violence, incest, gangs, misogyny, racism--are not treated as the issue. They function as maguffins as in so many American thrillers/investigation stories. Some reckoned it was bad filmmaking to have the Vietnamese so quickly disappear (they thought the film was about race relations). But for others this also represented the maturity of the film: a preparedness to hinge these 'problems' as 'family matters', not externally out there, but implicating us not as pretext but as subtext. We, the audience, are made to sympathize with Hando (an extreme position) to all the better turn on him and reject him later as an evil monster we want dead (an equally extreme position). It excited the cinephile imagination for its cinematic achievement as 'nowhere to be found [was] the patchiness in acting and directing that has blighted several Australian films' (Epstein 1992: 24-5).

And yes the film turns out finally to be a love story. But even here a love triangle with a difference emerges. Rejected and mistreated by Hando, Gabe takes revenge. She is rewarded with his mate Davey who walks out when she does. When she later overhears Hando trying to convince Davey to choose between him (male bonding) and her (heterosexual) love, she exacts vengeance by burning the car--Hando's means of escape. With it goes the last vestige of their community and Hando's hopes. Each time Gabe refuses to be marginalized, to not be given her say. In doing so, she provokes Hando to attempted murder. Davey is forced to side with Gabe and tries and save her and himself from Hando. The film exacts a cunning reversal, Davey, not Gabe, is the object of exchange, the object in circulation, in this love triangle. He circulates between the two strong characters. Hando's assertion to Davey that he was going to give him Gabe anyway, is meant to ring hollow. In the film's logic she is not to be 'given away', or 'fought over'. Davey has that position. Terrible things have been done to her but she is not a victim or an object for others.

Another controversy surrounding Asian representation emerged over Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Priscilla opened with a largely benign press as its drag queens were celebrated. Like Strictly Ballroom, this was a feel good movie, but properly 'camp' in the tradition of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was shocking then to hear Melba Margison of the Centre for Filipino Concerns saying 'that film, the way we have been treated there is actually killing us. For us, it is the murder of the dignity of Filipino women. It will encourage more violence against us'. The Filipino character in the film, Cynthia, was 'a gold-digger, a prostitute, an entertertainer whose expertise is popping out ping-pong balls from her sex-organ, a manic depressive, loud and vulgar'. And that 'while all the main and secondary characters in the film were treated with respect, humanized and dignified, the Filipina was treated with condemnation, dehumanised and stripped of any form of dignity'. The problem lay not with the by now familiar and routine excoriation of outback and heterosexual Australian men as Wake in Fright deviants, but with the woman, Cynthia, who panders to and is implicated in their heterosexuality. In response to this criticism, one of the film's producers, Al Clark, rejoined

The film is a gentle satire with enormous affection for its characters. Cynthia, the Filipina character in the film is a misfit like the three protagonists are, and just about everybody else in the film is, and her presence is no more a statement about Filipino women than having three drag queens is a statement about Australian men. (Caffarella 1994)

While Priscilla is celebrated for its social text mainstreaming gay lifestyles and 'acceptable gay culture' and its expansion of an Australian filmmaking tradition of 'freaks' to include Mitzi and Felicia and to a lesser extent the Cynthia character alongside Nino, Barry McKenzie, Stork, Alvin and Sweetie, it is also a problem film in that in 'rehabilitating' a marginalized group, it denigrated another 'marginalized' one: Asians and women. Such dissension over the meaning of the film is structural to filmmaking. Popular filmmakers work with hesitations, moral ambiguities, and not the moralities that sustain identity politics and critical intellectual debate.

But ambiguities, hesitations and decidedly unsimple moral equations are also the domain of the work of Aboriginal filmmaker Tracey Moffatt in her acclaimed short Night Cries and her later feature beDevil. E. Ann Kaplan observes that Moffatt's films are not simply in the business of 'locating and celebrating Aboriginal specificity' but are also about 'cultural inter-relatedness' (cited in Jennings 1993: 73). In these films, Moffatt insists on this interrelatedness while Aboriginalizing the viewing perspective.

Karen Jennings describes Night Cries as 'a film about a relationship between a middle aged Aboriginal woman . . . and an elderly white woman whom we assume to be her foster mother' (1993: 73). The focus of Night Cries is not on the moment of child stealing or on growing up Aboriginal in a white family. It takes up the story later when identities are well established, interrelatedness is routine, embedded, ritualized and dysfunctional. As Marcia Langton (1993: 46) observes these two women are 'independent beings, but perhaps they are not whole' (Langton plays the Aboriginal daughter). If the eventual death of the white mother can suggest that 'Aboriginal rebirth is conditional on the death of many prevailing white-black relationships' (S. Murray 1990: 22), Moffatt invites a more personal reading by telling her interviewer that the story became 'more about me and my white foster mother'. So, the filmmaker not only imagines her mother's death, she is also admitting to matricidal feelings about her--and these feelings are crossed by an inter-racial history and politics of black exploitation particularly as domestic servants in rural Australia.

Throughout our attention is on the Langton character. We are made complicit in the middle aged daughter's anger, frustration, bitterness and bad temper directed at her aged, decrepit, wheel-chair stricken white mother. This anger can stand for wider Aboriginal anger towards the white society that usurped their land and marginalized them into servitude. For Scott Murray 'the Old Mother's incontinence' suggests 'a white society clogged by its own cancers' (1990: 20). In this logic the mother's death frees the daughter but there is nothing upbeat about her death--for how can a daughter gloat over her mother's death? Instead she is stricken. While displacing the non-Aboriginal mainstream by Aboriginal presence and agency, Moffatt's films speak of implication and mutual history.

Carol Laseur (1993: 87) observes how Moffatt's first feature, beDevil, problematizes the settler mainstream endowing it with 'contradictory character traits'. By the third and last story, "Love'n the Spin I'm In", the settler culture has an explicit multicultural hue as cultural difference is 'not played upon in order to create a special or singular sense of meaning or identity' (Laseur 1993: 87), but rather to emphasize 'intercultural dialogue'. Laseur continues

Dimitri, Conos and Fong are negotiating prospects of a marina on the still occupied site, Emelda's relatives turn up. All welcome Dimitri like a long lost family member. A reaction shot from Conos and Fong soon establishes the ironic and conflicting positionalities Dimitri occupies in his multi-faceted relationships. In a desperate attempt to reconcile business connections with the sceptical observers, Dimitri stutters, "It's all part of a traditional squatter's farewell ceremony". (Laseur 1993: 87)

The Islanders of this story become the "ghosts in the (capitalist) machine". They refuse to go away. And what is more Dimitri does not ultimately want them to. But he knows this in his body, in his actions when he is with them, otherwise he does not admit to it. In this final story, the successfully buried Aboriginal and other history/presence cannot be replaced by the canal developments of the middle story. Islander resistance and occupation prevents it. The tenant/landlord relation is inverted and the-would-be developer settles for drinking till late with his black neighbours as their guest.

Moffatt's statements about herself foreground the indeterminacy of (her) identity. She projects herself in a set of serial public identities which we read as her refusal to endorse a fixed identity, as a desire to disrupt conventional categories and confining stereotypes as to Aboriginals and filmmaking. 'I want to be known as Tracey Moffatt interesting filmmaker'; 'Tracey Moffatt, Aboriginal filmmaker'; 'Yes I am Aboriginal, but I have the right to be avant-garde like any white artist' (Murray 1990: 21) or simply the beautiful Aboriginal woman as an actor in her feature, beDevil. Her films invite our interpretations, Moffatt goes out of her way to welcome them, while keeping open her options to later dispute the interpretations we produce.

Moffatt's work also represents a distinct province and innovation of the international art cinema. She is an indigenous filmmaker of international standing whose work can also be projected on multicultural horizons. Filmmakers like Pauline Chan and Monica Pellizari are also there in the creation of an English language diasporic multicultural cinemas. The space once occupied by the European art film becomes occupied in the 1990s by an English-language multicultural cinema.

With these different films Australian cinema in the 1990s is a notably diverse cinema. It is a family of complementary, disconnected and at times rivalrous filmmaking projects in which the international and the Australian are combined in a variety of ways. The Australian cinema cannot simply be found in the national industry or an inward looking, self-defining national culture. If this has always been the condition of Australian cinema, it took to the 1990s to make it an admissable and unexceptionable part of the Australian cinema landscape.

Works Cited

Berry, Chris. 1993. 'Australia in Asia/ Asia in Australia: An Interview with Teck Tan'. Metro. 94 (Winter). 42-4.

Cafarella, Jane. 1994. 'Filipino Women blast Priscilla for Portrayal of Worst Stereotype'. The Age. 7/10/1994.

Caputo, Raffaele 1993. 'Until the End of the World'. in Murray, Scott ed. 1993. Australian Film 1978-1992: A Survey of Theatrical Features. Melbourne: Oxford U P in association with the Australian Film Commission and Cinema Papers. 351.

Castaldi, Peter. 1994. 'Films'. The Sunday Herald Sun, TV Extra. 23 October.

Court, David and Jeremy Bean 1994. 'Production' in Australian Film Commission, Get the Picture, 3rd ed. Sydney: AFC. 30-41.

Crawford, Marie and Adrian Martin. 'Review of Sweetie'. Cinema Papers. 73 (May): 56-7.

Creed, Barbara. 1993. 'Lesbian Independent Cinema and Queer Theory'. Artlink. 12:3. 11-2.

Elsaesser, Thomas. 1994. 'Putting on a Show: the European Art Movie'. Sight and Sound. April. 22-7.

Epstein, Jan. 1992. 'Australian Films at Cannes'. Cinema Papers. n. 89 (August). 22-25.

Francke, Lizzie. 1993. 'Dark Side'. Sight and Sound. 3:4 (April). 18-19.

Friedman, Eva. 1992. 'Geoffrey Wright's Romper Stomper--a location Report'. Cinema Papers. 86 (January). 6-11.

Gibson, Ross. 1992. South of the West. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana U P.

Hay, John. 1994. 'Star Wars'. Sunday Mail (Brisbane). 23 October.

Horton, R. 1993. 'Dancing the Light Down Under'. Film Comment 29:1 (Jan/Feb). 6-7.

Jennings, Karen. 1993. Sites of Difference: Cinematic Representations of Aboriginality and Gender. Melbourne: AFI.

Kaes, Anton. 1989. From Hitler to Heimat: The Return of History as Film. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U P.

Kalantzis, Mary and Bill Cope. 1994. 'Vocabularies of Excellence: Reworking Multicultural Arts Policy'. S. Gunew and F. Rizvi. Culture, Difference and the Arts. 13-34.

Koval, Ramona. 1992. One to One. Sydney: ABC.

Langton, Marcia. 1993. 'Well, I heard it on the radio and I saw it on the television . . . ' An Essay for the Australian Film Commission on the politics and aesthetics of filmmaking by and about Aboriginal people and things. Sydney: AFC.

Laseur, Carol. 1993. 'beDevil: Colonial Images, Aboriginal Memories'. Span. 37 (December). 76-88.

Lombard, George. 1993. 'The Australian Example'. Refugees. 93. 18-19.

Martin, Adrian 1994. 'Ghosts...of a national cinema'. Cinema Papers, April. 97-8: 14-15.

Miller, Toby. 1994. 'How do you Turn Indooroopilly into Africa? Mission: Impossible, Second World Television, and The New International Division of Cultural Labour'. Technologies of Truth. Forthcoming.

Morris, Meaghan. 1992. Ecstasy and Economics: American Essays for John Forbes. Sydney: EM Press.

Murray, Scott. 1990. 'Tracey Moffatt, Night Cries--A Rural Tragedy Report by Scott Murray'. Cinema Papers. 79 (May). 18-22.

Murray, Scott. 1995. 'Review: Get the Picture'. Cinema Papers, 103 (March). 53.

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. 1985. 'But do we need it?'. Martin Auty and Nick Roddick ed. British Cinema Now. London: BFI.

Reid, Mary Anne. 1993. Long Shots to Favourites: Australian Cinema Sucesses in the 90s. Sydney: AFC.

Stratton, David. 1990. The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry. Sydney: Pan Macmillan.

Taylor, Ronnie. 1992. 'Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom'. Cinema Papers. 88 (May-June). 6-10.

Urban, Andrew L. 1994b. 'Big Bucks from US films'. Sydney Morning Herald. 22 October.


Copyright Tom O'Regan. All rights reserved. Redistribution for profit prohibited. Copies must include this notice. The author welcomes e-mail.


New: 26 October, 1995 | Now: 28 April, 2015