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The Hybridity of Filmmaking in Australian National Cinema: Formulating a Cinematic Post-diaspora

Rama Venkatasawmy

Hons Dissertation Murdoch University



Acknowledgements vi

Chapter 1

Why diaspora? 1
Cinematic diaspora and diasporic cinema 3
Theorising a cinematic diaspora 6
Principles of analogy 10
Hybridised identities: from diaspora to post-diaspora 12

Chapter 2

Theorising the hybridity of Australian filmmaking: existing sites 21
Antipodality 22
Being "feral" 26
Positive unoriginality 30
Cultural transfers 35

Chapter 3

The changing definition of "Australianness" on film 49
Identifying "Australianness": beginnings and development 52
Cinematic homelands: (a) Hollywood mainstream cinema
(b) (European) Art cinema (c) Internationalised cinema 58
Australian cinematic diaspora 69
"Babe" as a case of Australian cinematic diaspora 72

Chapter 4

Australian cinematic post-diaspora 82
Coming to terms with the hybridisation of "Australianness" 82
Sites of Australian cinematic post-diaspora 86
The Mad Max films as cinematic post-diaspora 90


How "national" is Australian national cinema? 102



Cinema is a medium that refuses boundaries. Filmmakers move between countries; films combine genres; film practices overstep the limits of terms such as documentary, fiction, avant-garde.

From Robert Sklar's (1993) Film - an International History of the Medium, Thames & Hudson Ltd., London, p.12.

It is hardly possible to overrate the value, in the present low state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar [...]. Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress.

From John Stuart Mill's Principles of Political Economy, book 3, chapter 17, section 5: vol.3, p.594. In J.M. Robson (ed.), (1981) Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, London.


This thesis was originally motivated by problematic questions regarding the cinematic identity of certain Australian films. How is a film's attribution of an Australian identity by some critics legitimised? What is "Australianness" and how is it expressed filmically? Is there such a thing as some kind of "pure" form of "Australianness"? How and where is filmmaking positioned within the sphere of Australian national cinema and culture? How does it relate to and fit into the broader international cinemascape?

While looking at such questions, it became essential to address the diversity and heterogeneity of films and filmmaking practices in Australia. These questions, which I have subsumed to the theme of hybridity, are fairly recurrent on the agenda of various Australian theorists and critics. They are debated and discussed - usually in reaction to the production of specific films or to critical "moments" in the progression of Australian cinema - by the intermediary of an interesting range of different yet complementary perspectives advanced by Meaghan Morris (1988), Ross Gibson (1992), McKenzie Wark (1994) and Tom O'Regan (1996). My own approach to hybridity is articulated in terms of a readaptation of the principal theories pertaining to ethnic diasporas to fulfil the specific exigencies of (national) cinema; in other words, I use the model of ethnic diasporas as an analogy for assessing and discussing films located in one way or another within the parameters of Australian national cinema. This approach does not mean to be contrapuntal to the perspectives already available but aspires to rekindle and possibly reinforce them.

The shift from diaspora to post-diaspora proved to be more productive and relevant to the purpose intended instead of the "traditional" model(s) of ethnic diasporas. The Australian cinematic diaspora and post-diaspora consequently formulated encompass films which can be said to have "crossed" (national) cinematic boundaries in their display of properties of double-consciousness and characteristics of hybridity.

Basically, this thesis is an exploration of a cinematic third space of hybridity which has been re-opened as a result of the use of recontextualised discursive tools of ethnic diaspora to examine the cinematic identity of various problematically-defined "Australian" films.


I would like to thank Dr. Tom O'Regan for the many hours of discussion about my ideas, for the on-going help, encouragement, expertise and criticism he has provided throughout all the different stages of this thesis, and for significantly expanding my knowledge and repertory of Australian films; Dr. Alec McHoul for his invaluable logistical support and suggestions, which have been particularly seminal during the initial stages of structuring and specifying the orientation of the thesis; Catherine Simpson for her support, for her comments while reading earlier drafts and for sharing with me her knowledge of Australian cinema. I am also indebted to Vijay Devadas, always very helpful with his advice and technical assistance and whose work on the Indian diaspora has been especially influential to the evolution of this thesis. Special thanks to my flatmates Daniel and Anoushka for remembering details about certain films which I thought I had forgotten. Also, a big thank you to Gerard, Poppy, Audrey, Alan and Abdul for technical help and moral support.

This thesis is dedicated to my mother Veesalachee, my father Lingasphara Lutchmana and my brother Lingarajan; my studies at Murdoch University would not have been possible without their continuous encouragement.

This dissertation is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Communication Studies at Murdoch University, 1996.

I declare that this dissertation is my own account of my research and contains as its main content work which has not previously been submitted for a degree at any tertiary educational institution.

Rama Venkatasawmy

New: 16 December, 1996 | Now: 29 April, 2015