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SAC 4 (3) pp.

195–198 Intellect Limited 2010

Studies in Australasian Cinema


Volume 4 Number 3
© 2010 Intellect Ltd Editorial. English language. doi: 10.1386/sac.4.3.195_2

EDITORIAL

ADRIAN DANKS
RMIT University
CONSTANTINE VEREVIS
Monash University

Australian International
Pictures

This issue of Studies in Australasian Cinema is devoted to what might loosely


be termed ‘Australian International Pictures’. It re-examines the concept and
definition of Australian film in relation to a range of local, international and
global practices and trends that blur neat categorizations of national cinema.
Although this shift or ‘turn’ to international production or influence is partic-
ularly acute in relation to such developments as the opening of Fox Studios in
Sydney in May 1998, it is in fact a key element of many stages in Australian
film history. It incorporates overseas financed and conceived films shot in
Australia, films that ‘imagine’ Australia from a significant distance, films that
rely heavily on international models of production and genre, truly independ-
ent or transnational films that emerge from particular developments in inter-
national relations, international or even ‘foreign’ films that feature significant
Australian personnel, and films shot within large studio complexes that just
happen to be situated on Australia’s Eastern Seaboard. Such an approach even
suggests a rethinking of what might be included within ‘Australian cinema’
to embrace or incorporate the dominant consumption patterns of local audi-
ences (who mostly do not watch traditional ‘Australian’ films).

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Adrian Danks | Constantine Verevis

The articles in this themed issue explore many of these approaches in rela-
tion to specific examples and case studies, including: an account of the conse-
quences and implications of the three large studio complexes built in Sydney,
Melbourne and on the Gold Coast since the late 1980s; an insight into the
popularity of Australia as a location for Indian cinema in the last decade; a
discussion of two westerns made by Japan’s Nikkatsu Corporation and Toei
Company in Australia in 1968; a description of the widespread internation-
alization of ‘American’ genres – the Western and film noir – in the 1960s; an
examination of the peculiar fascination with Australian fauna in the Warner
Bros. cartoons of the late 1940s and 1950s; and an account of the maverick
work of Joris Ivens that produced – with the backing of the Australian union
movement – a postcolonial film supporting Indonesian independence within
a country still enforcing the White Australia Policy.
Each of these articles presents a particular and significant instance of what
continues to be an under-analysed but key aspect (and chapter) of Australian
film history. The question of the impact of international production and influ-
ence on Australian cinema draws particular comparisons between the late
1940s, 1950s and 1960s – an era marked and defined by overseas production
companies making feature films in Australia to the exclusion of much else –
and the last fifteen or so years that have seen a more explicit split between
‘local’ production and mega-budget, studio-driven international film-making.
Like the broadly encompassing and porous approach to Australian cinema
found in the work of writers such as Tom O’Regan, Ben Goldsmith, Rama
Venkatasawmy, Susan Ward and Meaghan Morris, the ongoing reality of
Australian International Pictures suggests that a transnational approach can
productively expand and diversify what is commonly identified as Australian
(national) cinema.
The quarter of a century stretching from the end of World War II to
the early 1970s is often perceived as a period of virtually no activity in the
Australian film industry. This inaccurate perception can be understood as a
‘structural’ position or argument that was necessary in order to facilitate the
Australian film revival of the 1970s. This understanding is, however, only
true if discussion is limited to Australian financed and ‘created’ feature film
productions, and avoids more dynamic areas such as film culture, documen-
tary, international representations of Australia, and global trends in co-pro-
duction and location-based filming. It ignores the fact that many of the most
enduring and formative images of Australian cinema were fashioned by the
international productions of this period, representing ‘Australia’ to the world
on a level unmatched until the 1980s with the global phenomena of films
such as Mad Max 2 (George Miller, 1981) and Crocodile Dundee (Peter Faiman,
1986).
This issue of Studies in Australian Cinema refocuses attention on this era by
presenting a series of illuminating articles on three largely forgotten films of
the late 1960s and early 1970s: The Drifting Avenger/Koya No Toseinin (Junya
Sato, 1968), Ned Kelly (Tony Richardson, 1970) and Color Me Dead (Eddie
Davis, 1970). As Steven Gaunson notes of Ned Kelly, Australian critics and
audiences – uncertain of how to regard their mixture of international, national
and local priorities – have often viewed such international productions suspi-
ciously. Both Gaunson and Olivia Khoo discuss their chosen films as inter-
esting examples of the ‘international’ or Australian western, a particularly
significant hybrid genre within the history of Australian cinema. The inter-
nationalization and indigenization of genre is also explored by Constantine

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Australian International Pictures

Verevis in relation to Color Me Dead, an Australian set and filmed remake of


the classic film noir D.O.A. (Rudolph Maté, 1949).
A number of the articles herein examine the ways in which Australian
landscapes (and other locations) are deployed within an internationalized
framework, particularly the Nundle (New South Wales) locations that stand
in for the American West in The Drifter Avenger. This transformation and
literal ‘cartoonization’ of place is further explored by Adrian Danks in relation
to the Warner Bros. cartoons that feature the characters Hippety Hopper and
the Tasmanian Devil. Khoo additionally places The Drifting Avenger within a
tradition of Asian-Australian production that is more open to transnational
global flows and that helps to demonstrate the always porous nature of any
national cinema. In keeping with this, John Hughes’ exploration of the work
of Joris Ivens in Australia, and the production of his seminal documentary
Indonesia Calling (1946), provides a fascinating insight into an earlier moment
of internationalized production and its receptiveness to both local conditions
and broader developments in colonial, leftist and governmental politics. Ivens’
film is also an important document of an earlier moment of cooperation and
solidarity between Australian workers (and film-makers) and the independ-
ence movement of one of this country’s closest Asian neighbours.
The films of this earlier period are important, too, because of their connec-
tion to the resurgence of what can be called locationist film-making in Australia
in the last twenty or so years. The films produced at Fox Studios in Sydney,
the Docklands Studios in Melbourne, and the Gold Coast’s studio complex
have many interesting connections to these often big studio or genre-based
productions of the previous era. As a result of these developments, Australia
has become a significant location for the production of globally themed films
from a variety of countries, including India, the United States, Japan and
Hong Kong. What this means for the internationalization and definition of
Australian cinema is explored by Ben Goldsmith in relation to policy, actual
production procedures, and the structural and aesthetic significance of post-
modern, international studio practice. Goldsmith rethinks ideas and realities
of contemporary film production in Australia in terms of what he calls the
‘international turn’. This shift towards the studio has also had a significant
impact upon films using Australia as a more traditional location. Specifically,
Mike Walsh explores contemporary developments in ‘Australian’ film produc-
tion, distribution and exhibition in relation to the rising presence and place of
Indian cinema in this country.
All of the articles in this issue of Studies in Australasian Cinema reveal and
examine the intriguing cross-cultural formations and hybridizations created
by these globally targeted but still locally or nationally fascinating Australian
International Pictures.

REFERENCES
Goldsmith, Ben, Ward, Susan and O’Regan, Tom (2010), Local Hollywood:
Global Film Production and the Gold Coast, St Lucia: University of
Queensland Press.
Morris, Meaghan (1988), ‘Tooth and Claw: Tales of Survival, and Crocodile
Dundee’, in The Pirate’s Fiancée: Feminism, Reading and Postmodernism,
London: Verso, pp. 241–69.
O’Regan, Tom and Venkatasawmy, Rama (1999), ‘A Tale of Two Cities:
Dark City and Babe: Pig in the City’, in Deb Verhoeven (ed.), Twin Peaks:

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Adrian Danks | Constantine Verevis

Australian and New Zealand Feature Films, Melbourne: Damned Publishing,


pp. 187–203.

SUGGESTED CITATION
Danks, A. and Constantine Verevis (2010), ‘Australian International
Pictures’, Studies in Australasian Cinema 4: 3, pp. 195–198, doi: 10.1386/
sac.4.2.195_1

CONTRIBUTOR DETAILS
Adrian Danks is Senior Lecturer and Head of Cinema Studies in the School
of Media and Communication, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
(University). He is co-curator of the Melbourne Cinémathèque, and co-editor
of Senses of Cinema. He has published widely in a range of books and journals
including: Senses of Cinema, Studies in Documentary Film, Metro, Screening the
Past, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Screen Education, 1001 Movies You
Must See Before You Die, Traditions in World Cinema, Melbourne in the 60s, 24
Frames: Australia and New Zealand, Cultural Seeds: Essays on the Work of Nick
Cave and Twin Peeks: Australian and New Zealand Feature Films. He is currently
writing several books including one on the history and practice of home
moviemaking in Australia.
Contact: Blg 9, Level 4, RMIT University, 124 La Trobe St, Melbourne, Victoria
3000, Australia.
E-mail: adrian.danks@rmit.edu.au

Constantine Verevis is Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the


School of English, Communications and Performance Studies at Monash
University, Melbourne. He is the author of Film Remakes (Edinburgh UP,
2006), and co-editor of Second Takes: Critical Approaches to the Film Sequel
(SUNY P, 2010).
Contact: School of English, Communications and Performance Studies,
Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia.
Tel: +61 3 9903 5079
E-mail: con.verevis@monash.edu

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