2009 is turning out to be a fantastic year for Australian film. After the dire state of last year, this year, top quality films done by Aussies seems to be a custom honoured more in the observance than the breach.
We've had the great success of Samson and Delilah - which this week should top $3m in box office; Adam Elliot's follow up to Harvie Krumpet, Mary and Max, which while it has only done a bit over $1m will hopefully find an audience internationally; the adaptation of J.M Coeztee's Disgrace staring John Malkovich, and the rediscovery of the 1971 film, Wake in Fright.
But the next couple of months shape up as being the cream. This week we have Rachel Ward's debut directing gig of Beautiful Kate, the trailer of which seems to convey an overwhelmingly haunting feel (and a great score by Tex Perkins). It will do well to get over $1m, given it's a very adult type drama - not for kids - but it looks fantastic, and top quality work by all involved - and we're talking some of the best in Australian film:
Then next week we have Balibo coming out (13 August) - the preview of which I showed a few week's back. Given the box office of Robert Connolly's The Bank, the excellent profile it has been getting (and will get), not to mention the astounding reviews and Anthony La Paglia's involvement and profile, I'll be stunned if it doesn't go well over $3m.
The week after, a funny little film (which is actually an Israel-Australian co-production), $9.99 opens. It stars Anthony La Paglia, Ben Mendelsohn, Geoffrey Rush, Barry Otto, and Claudia Karvan. The catch is, it is done in stop animation (geez, wouldn't you love that cast in a "live" film?). I'm not sure if it will find an audience, but it certainly is unique. (Can't embed the trailer).
Then we get back into safer territory with the release on 3 September of Charlie and Boots. Haven't heard of it? Don't worry, you will, because it stars Paul Hogan and Shane Jacobson, and those two know how to sell a film better than just about anyone in this country. Jacobson's Kenny made around $8m at the box office. Now I doubt this will make that much, but Hoges's last outing, Strange Bedfellows, (which was done by the same director, Dean Murphy) did $4.8m, and I think this film looks more accessible and has a bigger potential audience. So I have a good feeling about this making at least that much:
Then on 1 October comes Bruce Beresford's adaptation of the big selling memoir by Li Cunxin, Mao's Last Dancer. The trailer was released yesterday. It looks amazing. A friend of mine has read the script, and has been eagerly waiting for a long time for it to finally be completed. The film will be shown at the Toronto Film Festival, and I suspect they'll make a big run for possible Oscar nominations. It has Art Direction and best Costume nominations written all over it, but if the film gets an audience in the US, and some critical acclaim, with Beresford's name attached to it, it could really take off, and we could be starting to talk about bigger categories. Here's hoping.
And to finish off the year, we have Jane Campion's film about the poet John Keats and his muse, Bright Star. It got rave reviews at Cannes, and will be another going for a run at the Oscars:
That's some great films that cover the full breadth of cinema. With luck the next six months may go a good way to killing off the current feeling of trepidation when someone tells you a film is Australian.