Welcome to the fourth anniversary of AUSgust: the month dedicated to celebrating all things Australian cinema!
We here at The Curb dedicate the month of August to highlighting a wide array of Aussie films, from shorts to features, from doco’s to dramas. With much of Australia in some kind of lockdown, or in a state of restriction, this month we’re focusing on the films that are a little more widely available to watch at home.
Below is a rundown of daily suggestions to watch for AUSgust. Consider this your personal film festival at home guide, one that’ll take you from the chilly streets of Melbourne with MIFF presents, to the tourist destinations of Sydney, taking in some of Australia’s finest music with Sing Your Song, while Greg McLean scares you stupid in the top end, and Jill Bilcock dances the invisible, bringing it all together immaculately. We also want to champion some of the great Aussie films that have been released in 2021, a year that is proving to be a watershed year for Australian cinema.
This tour through Australian cinema will delight anyone and everyone who loves film, and who wants suggestions on how best to enjoy the delights that this great land has to offer.
Dig on in here:
Greg McLean is one of Australia’s great horror legends. From the absolutely bone-chilling terror delight Wolf Creek, to celebrating the giant croc in Rogue, and then mowing down Australian wildlife in Wolf Creek 2, and almost killing Harry Potter in Jungle, Greg McLean continually sets the standard that countless other Aussie horror hopefuls try to meet. Why not take an ill-advised journey into the outback tonight?
2021 is a stacked year when it comes to honouring some of Australian film classics milestones. With Walkabout and Wake in Fright both celebrating their 50th anniversaries, and Ray Lawrence’s finest hour, Lantana, knocking on twenty years old, to the tenth anniversary of the Aussie doggo delight, Red Dog, there’s a deep array of Aussie cinema classics to celebrate tonight. Dig into the list herefor more suggestions.
Miranda Tapsell is easily one of the most entertaining and luminescent actresses to ever grace Australian screens, with her utterly joy-inducing smile making Wayne Blair’s family-friendly delights, The Sapphires and Top End Wedding, so completely memorable. Tonight, we honour and celebrate this Aussie icon, quietly recommending that once you’re done holding a torch up for this Queen of cinema, you head on over and check out her work with Nakkiah Lui on the final episode of Get Krack!n.
A perennial entry in the AUSgust list is the championing of Australia’s Oscars: the AFI/AACTA award winners. On this night, you’ll be able to take a trip through some of Australia’s most celebrated films, like the Oscar nominated war drama, Breaker Morant, or find out why Marvel sought out Cate Shortland with her feature debut, Somersault. Or maybe you’ll want to see what kind of director Richard Roxburgh is with his sole effort, Romulus, My Father, or revisit Nadia Tass’ delightful classic, Malcolm, released by Umbrella on a packed Bluray disc.
If you follow @TheCurbAU on Twitter, you’ll no doubt be aware of how many times Andrew mentions the documentary streaming service, DocPlay. And honestly, with 228 (and counting) Australian stories on offer, there’s no surprise why he loves this service. Where else can you find a delightful array of brilliant Aussie docs that range from the cheerful I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story, to the AACTA Award nominated Girls Can’t Surf, and the powerful duo of Backtrack Boysand Island of the Hungry Ghosts, to the criminally underseen, It All Started With a Stale Sandwich? If you haven’t embraced DocPlay, then today is your time to do so. You won’t regret it.
Tonight, we continue our journey with documentaries, and take a look at the film that Andrew calls ‘one of the towering achievements of Australian documentary filmmaking’: Sam Lara and Cathy Henkel’s work of searing beauty and compassion, Laura’s Choice. This ode to Sam’s grandmother, and Cathy’s mother, Laura Henkel, is a life affirming story of this trio of inspiring women as they share the journey of guiding Laura on her path of voluntary assisted dying. The subject sounds heavy, and given its subject matter, it certainly is, but there is a levity and joy to Laura’s Choice that feels unexpected, yet reminds us the importance of living. Essential viewing on ABC iView now.
Filmed in Freo, and featuring heartthrobs Brenton Thwaites and Joel Jackson, alongside the ever-engaging Lily Sullivan, Luke Eve’s I Met a Girl arrived on Netflix early in the year with far too little fanfare. Tonight, we urge you to seek out this charming romance that’ll leave you wanting to visit Freo when you can, and to rediscover what has quickly become a hidden Aussie gem that was right there in front of you all along.
For our first journey interstate, we’re taking a sojourn down to the Apple Isle and embracing the rugged and remote landscape that has become the backdrop of countless Aussie classics. First, there’s Willem Dafoe’s search for the thylacine in The Hunter, then there’s Gillian Armstrong’s costume drama, Oscar and Lucinda, with Cate Blanchett and Ralph Fiennes, and then there’s the unsettling colonial drama, The Nightingale, by the masterful Jennifer Kent. And then, of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Tasmania without a double whammy of Alexander Pearce tales, with The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce and Van Diemen’s Land both leaving a mark.
With the one-two punch of Mystery Road and Goldstone, Ivan Sen helped bring one of the most iconic Aussie characters into existence: Aaron Pederson’s Indigenous Detective Jay Swan. These cop-dramas in the outback would be impressive works in any directors catalogue, but throw on a debut feature like Beneath Clouds and a gangster-wannabe story like Toomelah, and it’s easy to see why Ivan Sen is one of the most important and exciting directors working today. Tonight we urge you to revisit Ivan Sen’s world and see why his work helped spawn the award winning Mystery Road series.
From the great south to the top end, tonight we’re celebrating the films made in the Northern Territory. From Stephen Johnson’s essential 2021 film, High Ground, to the utterly delightful Rolf de Heer classic, Ten Canoes, and even the camp-excess of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, there’s a broad array of films made in the NT that’ll have you wanting to visit this great part of Australia from the comfort of your living room.
Besides being one of the premier festivals in Australia that celebrates Australian cinema, Revelation Film Festival also champions Aussie shorts films like no other. With an almost endless amount of films available to watch for free on their RevStream platform, Revelation helps shine a light on the often forgotten slice of Australian cinema that usually may only exist at festivals. Also worthwhile seeking out is the Rev screened short, Call Connect.
Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell are some of the most iconic Australian talents from the silent era, and tonight we want to highlight one of their enduring classics: The Sentimental Bloke. Pulled from the C.J. Dennis poem, ‘Songs of a Sentimental Bloke’, this charming film highlights the Australian identity with its proudly ocker dialogue in its intertitles, and stands as a powerful reminder that Aussie cinema existed long before the Australian New Wave of the seventies. If you’ve not experienced this silent classic, then tonight’s the night to jump on in.
Australian music is like no other. It’s got a certain kind of grit and passion that sets it apart from the rest of the world. Tonight, we want you to bring in Friday night with fury and create your own home concert (of sorts) with some Aussie music focused films. Flicks.com.auand Beat both have some great suggestions for tonight, and we want to help champion music flicks like Mat de Koning’s sweaty decade long doco, Meal Tickets, and Rachel Perkins bright musical Bran Nue Dae, while also getting behind the essential doco Gurrumul, and the almost lost doco, Dead Set.
We now head to Melbourne to join the swathes of people enjoying the great array of films on offer at the Melbourne International Film Festival. This year, the selection is as impressive as it is deep, with the powerful Streamline making its debut, or the extensive documentary The Beloved taking us through the history of ‘The Orange People’ or Fremantle, or the revival of Margot Nash’s first feature, Vacant Possession, all filling out the Aussie films on offer. And, if you can’t attend the fest, then SBS On Demand has you covered with Under the Cover of Cloud, Strange Colours, and Jirga all rounding out the Aussie films in the MIFF Selects section.
One of the most thrilling additions to the physical media library of late has been Umbrella Entertainment’s championing of Australian cinema with their boutique lines, Sunburnt Screens and Ozploitation Classics. In unison, these collections work as an introduction in Australian cinema, with some of the most iconic titles being available in some of the most impressive and stacked Bluray editions, lovingly crafted for the Aussie film lovers out there. Titles to watch include *deep breath*: Stone, Windrider, Patrick, Turkey Shoot, Malcolm, Sunday Too Far Away, Dingo, The Last Wave, and more…
Sydney-siders get a shine-in today with a spotlight on the true Aussie capital. From the indie comedy charmer, Standing Up for Sunny, to the iconic surfer classic Puberty Blues, to double whammy of Yahoo Serious mayhem, Reckless Kelly and Young Einstein, to the celebratory dance-fest that is Strictly Ballroom, to the completely unsettling horror, The Invisible Man, there’s a huge amount of Aussie gems to discover set in this broad and brilliant state.
Director Justin Kurzel exploded onto Australian screens with his crime drama, Snowtown, ten years ago. In that time, he’s cut a career for himself tearing apart Australian history with True History of the Kelly Gang and the upcoming Nitram. In the midst of this, he was part of the impressive Tim Winton-anthology film, The Turning. There’s a reason that Justin Kurzel’s Aussie films have become appointment viewing, and tonight we urge you to revisit some of his iconic films and see why he became the applauded director that he is today.
Australian cinematographer Michael Latham has quickly made a name for himself as being one of the genuine modern greats in the field. From his continued work with Kitty Green, including the masterful documentary Casting JonBenet, to his emotional and empathetic gaze in Island of the Hungry Ghosts, to his nauseating and powerful lens in Buoyancy, to the caring and transformative view of the outback in Strange Colours, Michael Latham is clearly one of the greatest Australian cinematographers around. Sink into his output today.
Nominated for an AACTA Award, and universally acclaimed, My Name is Gulpilil is one of the best Australian films of 2021. Molly Reynolds is the perfect director to help bring the story of Australia’s greatest actor, David Gulipil, to life, and she does so with great tenderness and compassion here, knowing that this film will act as one final moment to spend with this icon before he leaves us forever.
Queensland comfortably finds itself on screen thanks to its varied landscapes. Here, we find ourselves in rugby territory with Heath Davis’ powerful debut Broke, while also traipsing back in time into the heat-drenched Christmas time of The Proposition, and navigating the horrors of the open ocean in Dead Calm. Additionally, the truth of Indigenous deaths in custody is revealed in devastating manner in the documentary, The Tall Man. Whatever your interest, rest assured that Queensland-set cinema has you covered.
Anyone familiar with Australian cinema would know that South Australia is pretty much the home to all of the great Aussie films. The state has stood in for other global locations, with David Twohy’s sci-fi film Pitch Black effectively launching Vin Diesel into stardom and a little film called Jaws having a slice of Australia in the water, and even domestic locales with the Flinders Ranges standing in for WA in Wolf Creek and Lucky Miles. But maybe it’s South Australia as South Australia that you want to see, and if that’s the case then you could strip off with Maslin Beach, or journey into post-apocalyptic outback with Martin Freeman in Cargo, or maybe engage in some domestic terror with Rolf de Heer’s marital trauma film Alexandra’s Project, or follow Daniel Radcliffe in December Boys. There’s something for everyone in South Australian cinema.
While Babakieuria could easily fit into an upcoming category, its brilliance and importance is why it sits by itself as a film that needs to be watched today. The notion of the plot is pretty simple: what would Australia look like if Indigenous Australians invaded and colonised this land instead of European Australians? This excellent satire is still used today in classrooms to highlight the history of Australia’s entrenched racism against the Indigenous people this land was stolen from. Watch it here.
Right, Western Australia, the home land of The Curb, deserves its moment in the spotlight, with the wide array of excellent cinema being made here. Whether it be Robert Connolly’s family-friendly drama Paper Planes, or the retro delight that is Top Knot Detective, or the end of the world drama These Final Hours, or maybe the late night trip along the train line drama Last Train to Freo, or Roderick Mackay’s history lesson potboiler The Furnace, it’s clear that there’s so much more to WA cinema than Cottesloe beach and mining booms.
So much of Australian cinema is hidden or out of reach, so much so that the list of lost or unavailable Australian films is seemingly never-ending. That’s why in this entry we’re going off-road, a little backbeat, and slightly dodgy, with some quietly nefarious YouTube uploads. These include the Aussie animated film Go to Hell!!, Stefan Elliott’s debut farce Frauds, and way over on Archive.org is the lost Aussie film, Diana and Me, and even the first feature film The Story of the Kelly Gang. While this may be one of the more nefarious entries on the list, it’s here as a way of highlighting some of the fringe films that exist within the monolith that is Australian cinema.
Kriv Stenders is one of the most prolific Australian directors around. Bursting onto the scene with his stunningly creative drama Boxing Day, and giving Samuel Johnson something darkly comedic to sink his teeth into with The Illustrated Family Doctor, Stenders then went on to craft some of the biggest and most impressive blockbusters around, with Red Dog, Red Dog: True Blue, and the wartime epic, Danger Close. Kriv doesn’t limit himself to features either, with a deep catalogue of television work, including the remake of Wake in Fright and a tour of Captain Cook’s legacy with Sam Neill in The Pacific, and an exemplary array of docos that include Slim & I and the great The Go-Betweens: Right Here.
Receiving an almost-overdue revival is the Aussie classic, Chopper. Out in cinemas today with a new restoration and added footage, Andrew Dominik’s timeless masterpiece brought the acting prowess of Eric Bana to the forefront. Chopper straddles the line between condemning a criminal icon, while also finding comfort in his self-constructed glory, and does so in pitch black comedy fashion. As the trailer says, Chopper is a sign that Australian cinema can reach monstrous heights of glory.
Besides hosting a superb array of Australian film classics, Stan.also acts as the home to some truly brilliant Australian original films. From the instant-classic A Sunburnt Christmas that has helped kickstart the Aussie Christmas genre, to the debut of one Natalie Erika James (aka, the next Jennifer Kent) with Relic, and Tilda Cobham-Hervey as icon Helen Reddy in I Am Woman, toThe Second which pairs Aussie icons Rachael Blake, Susie Porter, and Vince Colosimo together in a tight-thriller, there’s seriously something for everyone on Stan.
Robert Connolly is already a master of Australian cinema, but with his adaptation of Jane Harper’s best seller, The Dry, he’s quite simply outdone himself. Eric Bana stuns as Aaron Falk, a man returning to his hometown of Kiewarra to attend the funeral of his friend Luke, a man who may have engaged in a horrifying murder-suicide. Unveiling the plot of this white-knuckle thriller is part of the joy, and what makes this film such a powerful entity to revisit. Grounded performances and stunning cinematography from Stefan Duscio ensure The Dry’s place as a modern Aussie classic.
Way back in 1997, Bill Bennett made waves with the AFI award winning Kiss or Kill. Long lost and unavailable, and now finally revived on Stan., this film features excellent performances from Frances O’Connor and Matt Day as lovers on the lam after a scam goes wrong. The re-emergence of Kiss or Kill reminds us why the Best Picture award at the AFI Awards is worthwhile celebrating and remembering, and why each of these iconic films deserves to be continually available.
Following on from an AFI award winner, we want to take the moment to highlight the work of someone who helped create much of the language of Australian cinema: editor icon Jill Bilcock. First, you can jump into the delicious documentary Jill Bilcock: Dancing the Invisible, or you can take your pick of Aussie classics that she’s edited to delight yourself with: The Dressmaker, Japanese Story, Muriel’s Wedding, The Dish, Head On, High Ground, and of course, Strictly Ballroom. Enjoy.
Finally, we close out AUSgust with one of the most impressive documentaries of 2021 that comes from one of the most impressive documentarians Australia has to offer: Playing with Sharks. Sally Aitken’s essential film tells the life of Aussie icon, Valerie Taylor, and her journey as a shark lover, and eventually, as a conservationist. This brilliant film uses archival footage to show how Valerie and her husband Ron brought the world underwater with immersive cinematography, and changed the world with their Jaws footage, and then tirelessly worked to change the world again to save the plight of sharks. Important, essential, and utterly entertaining: no better way to close out this month of Australian cinema than with Playing with Sharks.
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