A year ago we kicked off the first annual celebration of Australian films – AUSgust. A whole month dedicated to Australian cinema and the brilliant work that has been made throughout the years.
Just like last year, we’ve got thirty one
suggestions as to what to watch each night of August to help celebrate
Australian cinema. We kick off the month we a Rachel Perkins night, celebrating
one of Australia’s great women directors, then moving into a bunch of fantastic
genre fare – science fiction, war films, comedy, with a dip into the work of
Baz Luhrmann, Bruce Beresford, and Ana Kokkinos. Elsewhere throughout the
month, we have celebrations of the work of Noah Taylor, Bruce Spence, Rachael
Blake, Susie Porter, and Guy Pearce. At the end of AUSgust, Andrew will release
his rundown of the fifty best Australian films of the last decade.
And finally, we have a special night dedicated to
one film, and this years film is Paul Ireland’s Pawno. On August 17th, we hope you’ll join us all around
the world in celebrating this great film and honouring the legacy of Damian
Make sure to keep up with the discussion on
social media as each day of AUSgust rolls on and use the hashtag #AUSgust or
#AustralianFilmMonth. Jump into The Curb’s facebook group to talk about what
you’ve been watching and let people know what Australian gems you’ve found this
The list of themes and suggested ideas are found
1st – Rachel Perkins 2nd – Let’s Blow Some Shit Up! – Action Films 3rd – Murder! 4th – Kids Flicks 5th – Noah Taylor 6th – Australian History 7th – Token Hollywood Actor 8th – Baz Luhrmann 9th – In Cinema Now! – Palm Beach, Danger Close, 2040 10th – Free Choice 11th – AFI/AACTA Award Best Picture Winners 12th – Bruce Spence 13th – Shock Your Jocks Off – Horror 14th – Bruce Beresford 15th – Out of This World – Sci-Fi Films 16th – Susie Porter 17th – Pawno Night 18th – Animated Australia 19th – Ana Kokkinos 20th – Oscar Rewarded Australian Films 21st – Rachael Blake 22nd – The Aussie New Wave Era 23rd – Outback 24th – In Cinemas Now! – The Australian Dream, The Nightingale 25th – Free Choice 26th – True to Life: Documentaries 27th – Guy Pearce 28th – Cinefest Oz Winners – Paper Planes, Putuparri and the Rainmakers, Girl Asleep, Ali’s Wedding, Jirga 29th – Comedy: Cracking Yarns 30th – David Gulpilil 31st – The Curb’s Best of the 2010’s List
1st – Rachel Perkins
Rachel Perkins is, quite simply, one of Australia’s finest directors. Her catalogue of films may not be as deep as many other directors, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Kicking off in 1998 with the soulful Radiance, and following it up with an Aussie rarity – a musical! – One Night the Moon, Rachel then really made her name with powerful Indigenous stories Bran Nue Dae (another musical!), Mabo, and the Redfern Now series. In 2017, she adapted Craig Silvey’s young adult book Jasper Jones, bringing this endearing classic to life. No matter which film you pick, you’ll hit a winner.
2nd – Let’s Blow Some Shit Up! – Action Films
One of the AUSgust mainstays is the celebration of Aussie action flicks. Bare knuckle brawls, brutal stunts that coulda killed somebody, and explosions in Sydney – Aussie action films have it all. While it’s easy to pick up Mad Max once again, why not look for something a little more unique and different this time round. This is a perfect chance to check out Leigh Whannell’s absolutely bonkers Upgrade from last year, or maybe go a little bit absurd and check out Steve Irwin’s attempt at Buster Keaton-esque action with The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, or throw caution to the wind and go in blind on the insanely titled Fags in the Fast Lane. Surprise yourself.
3rd – Murder!
Look, everyone likes a bit of a murder mystery every so often, and given how desolate and dark Australia’s history is, there’s a fair wealth of tales of murder to pick from. Sure, the first one that comes to mind is Snowtown, but maybe you’d want to take a look at the Australian giallo film, The Pyjama Girl Murder Case? Or, something a little more recent, the pitch black drama Brothers’ Nest, which has two superb performances from Clayton and Shane Jacobson. Or maybe good old Russell Crowe with muttonchops will be your thing, with the Tarantino-esque Heaven’s Burning?
4th – Kids Flicks
The fourth is a Sunday, so why not laze about in the afternoon with a great Aussie kids flick. The go-to suggestion for this one is always going to be the criminally underrated Paper Planes – see Julian Dennison before he got big, and catch a genuinely good Sam Worthington performance as well. But, maybe you want to dig into the work of Yoram Gross and follow the tales of Dot and her many friends with the Dot series? Or, failing that, why not revisit one of the finest Australian films ever made: Babe: Pig in the City.
5th – Noah Taylor
Noah Taylor – aka knock off Ben Mendelsohn – has a long legacy of brilliant Australian content that’ll entertain you to no end. Head on back to one his best performances and give The Year My Voice Broke a watch, or if you’ve already seen that, then give its sequel, Flirting a squiz. Or maybe you want to see him in some prestigious fare? If so, pop on Shine, where you get to see Taylor give a powerful performance as David Helfgott. Or maybe that all sounds a bit too much and you want something a bit sweeter, at which I suggest checking out Red Dog – an always enjoyable flick to spend time with.
6th – Australian History
In the past decade, there has been a wealth of Australian films that take a look at little known parts of Australian history – whether it be the fable of Robyn Davidson and her pilgrimage across Australia with some camels and a dog in Tracks, or the devastating document of Indigenous history with Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country, or Abe Forsyth’s searing pitch black comedic look at the aftermath of the Cronulla riots in Down Under, there is something for everyone in this category. While we’re suggesting films from the last decade, that doesn’t mean that you can’t dig further back into the history of Australian cinema and Australian history to find something worthwhile watching.
7th – Token Hollywood Actor
For this one, we’re going to scrape a bit further down into the realm of ‘I had no idea that film existed’ categories, and take a look at a few smaller films that feature international actors. First up on the platter is the criminally underseen drama Beast, featuring a powerful central performance from Chad McKinney, and an equally powerful supporting performance from Garret Dillahunt. Or maybe Downriver would be more your style – a fantastic, undervalued film featuring a great performance from the ever reliable Kerry Fox. Or, maybe you need a bit more Vincent Cassel in your life, and given that applies to all of us, I would highly recommend slipping Partisan on to get your fix.
8th – Baz Luhrmann
Love or hate him, there’s simply no denying that Baz Luhrmann is one of Australia’s most expressive directors. With the va-va-voom of Strictly Ballroom, full of verve and energy to make whole cinemas dance down the aisles as they leave, to the David Lean-esque glamourised Australia, to the tale of eccentricity and wealth with The Great Gatsby, there’s something that’ll keep you entertained and amazed within every one of Baz Luhrmann’s films.
9th – In Cinema Now! – Palm Beach, Danger Close, 2040
For this years AUSgust, there will be two days dedicated to catching Australian films in cinemas. Now, this does depend on where you are in the world, but for the sake of this list, we’re taking a gander at Australian cinemas. So, for the first date, your choices are the grey dollar-centric Palm Beach, a film full of solid performances from Bryan Brown, Greta Scacchi, and Sam Neill. Or maybe a bit of wartime glory is what you want, and if that’s the case, then check out Kriv Stenders Danger Close – a film about the Battle of Long Tan. Or, if you’re lucky, you can still check out the superb documentary 2040, a film by Damon Gameau about climate change and what our future might look like.
10th – Free Choice
This year, we give the reigns over to you for two days in AUSgust to decide what Australian film you’d like to watch. Whether it’s by rewatching Mad Max: Fury Road or catching that obscure indie film you’ve never heard of, we trust you’ll make the right decision. If you need a bit more guidance, maybe check out this helpful video from YouTube channel Terry Talks Movies.
11th – AFI/AACTA Award Best Picture Winners
There’s a wealth of great films that have taken the top prize at the AFI/AACTA awards throughout the years. For this year, we’re going to suggest taking a dip into the Criterion collection editions of Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career and Bruce Beresford’s Breaker Morant. Both are stacked with essential special features, and both have sublime transfers of these classic films. If you already have them, or want something a little different, then check out the fantasy kids flick, The Navigator: The Medieval Odyssey – a unique New Zealand/Australian co-production.
12th – Bruce Spence
Everybody’s favourite Aussie giant larrikin gets a look in with this entry. While Spence is a New Zealand bloke who calls Australia home, we’ve taken ownership of him, and it’s here that we’re going to celebrate some of his finest work. The aptly titled Stork is possibly his finest work, with one of Australia’s great directors – Tim Burstall – giving Spence a wonderful lead performance to work with. Stork is also worthwhile watching for the great Jackie Weaver performance. Or maybe his eerie presence in Alex Proyas’ Dark City is what you seek. Sure, Spence’s screen time is limited here, but when he’s on screen it leaves one heck of an impact. Or maybe, sticking with the absurd, you will want to check him out in Peter Weir’s bonkers The Cars That Ate Paris. Throw a stone, and you’ll easily hit an enjoyable Bruce Spence performance.
13th – Shock Your Jocks Off – Horror
While it’s easy to just slip on the staples of Aussie horror – Wolf Creek or The Babadook – let’s go with something a little different. The two films I cannot recommend highly enough are Scare Campaign and Killing Ground. One is a joyous unexpected roller coaster ride of shlock and terror, equally entertaining and frightening. The other, Killing Ground, is a macabre pitch black assault on your senses. It’s brutal, violent, horrifying and genuinely unsettling. If you thought the nastiness of Wolf Creek was intense, then wait til you experience Killing Ground.
14th – Bruce Beresford
We’ve already suggested you check out Breaker Morant, but did you know that Bruce Beresford has also directed a wealth of other great Australian films? For this entry, we highly recommend getting political with Don’s Party – a look at a night of Australian politics through the eyes of the sexual revolution of the sixties. Or maybe that sounds a little too risqué for you, at which point we would highly recommend checking out The Fringe Dwellers – a story about an Indigenous family wanting to move into a white community. But, my pick is for (arguably) his best film, Puberty Blues – a story about two girls growing up in Australia. Sure, his latter work is mostly Hollywood affairs, but if you check out his seventies-eighties output, you’ll hit a bunch of gems.
15th – Out of This World – Sci-Fi Films
In the year since last AUSgust, a few notable Australian sci-fi films have become available to the world. First up, there’s Grant Sputore’s fantastic I Am Mother, which is available on Netflix right now and is one heck of a solid sci-fi flick, with great voice work from Rose Byrne. Secondly, Alex Proyas’ first film, Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds is now available on a spectacular blu-ray release from Umbrella entertainment – this is one heck of a visually stunning film, showcasing why Proyas is a name we still talk about. Finally, if you didn’t catch Upgrade on the action day, then pull your thumb out and watch it for the sci-fi, you’ll thank us later. And if you’ve seen those, then here’s twolists that have some solid suggestions.
16th – Susie Porter
Susie Porter is a staple mainstay in Australian film. A genuine treat to watch on film, Porter is guaranteed to light up the screen and bring a huge amount of energy to the mix. Why not celebrate Susie’s work by digging into some of her finest performances. Personally, I’ll always recommend her firecracker of a performance in Welcome to Woop Woop, but maybe that’s a bit too out there for some folks, at which I’d suggest checking out her wonderful performance alongside David Wenham in Better Than Sex. Alternatively, if you want to stick with genre-fare, seek out Cargo – Susie’s presence is limited here, but her performance still packs a punch, setting the tone for the rest of the film.
17th – Pawno Night
In preparation for Paul Ireland’s next film, Measure for Measure, we’re celebrating the great work that is Pawno on August 17th. To help celebrate this day, we’re hosting a global event for everyone to participate in. All you have to do is watch Pawno on August 17th, and share your thoughts on social media. Pawno is one of the best Australian films of the last decade, and at its core is one heck of a performance from the great Damian Hill. Raise your glassess high on the 17th and celebrate the life and legacy of Damian with this great film.
18th – Animated Australia
Australia may not be known for its animated films, but would you believe we have a huge amount of great animated films? With everything from the Oscar winning Happy Feet, to the work of Yoram Gross with the Dot films, to Zack Snyder’s Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole film, there’s something for everyone. But, if we’re going to suggest one film to check out on this day, then why not give Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max a watch – a superb stop motion animated film with great voice performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Eric Bana, and Bethany Whitmore.
19th – Ana Kokkinos
Ana Kokkinos’ filmic work is certainly not as prolific as some directors, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile seeking out. With films as important and impactful as Head On – featuring a great Alex Dimitriades performance –, as provocative and sexual as The Book of Revelation, and as heartbreaking and home hitting as Blessed, Ana Kokkinos’ work is one that deserves celebrating and remembering. Honour her work by watching on her great films on this day.
20th – Oscar Rewarded Australian Films
Would you believe, Australia has been pretty successful when it comes to the Academy Awards. We’ve had a bunch of films nominated for the big prize – with everything from The Piano to Babe, to Shine and Moulin Rouge!, to the trifecta of Hacksaw Ridge, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Lion. But if you look below the line, there’s been some truly fantastic films that have been nominated for cinemas biggest award. So, the three films we’re going to suggest checking out are: Australia’s first Best Foreign Language Film nominee – Tanna. Martin Butler and Bentley Dean direct this wonderful romance that is full of stunning cinematography. David Bradbury’s documentary Front Line also was nominated way back in 1980, and it’s a documentary that is unfairly forgotten in Australia’s history. Finally, let’s go with Perth local Shaun Tan and his Oscar winning short The Lost Thing. If you’ve ever read a Shaun Tan book, you’ll know how beautiful his artistry is, so with that in mind, his short film The Lost Thing is well worth seeking out just to see that artistry in action.
21st – Rachael Blake
Rachael Blake gives one of the great Australian performances in the essential Lantana, but outside of that great film, she has given some truly superb performances in a variety of great films. In Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty, Blake plays Clara, someone who runs a very risqué service, which is quite a different character than the one she plays in The Second – a writer whose life is turned on its head with the presence of her friend and muse at a remote house. Whatever film you pick, you’re guaranteed a great performance from one of Australia’s finest actresses.
The Aussie new wave era is one that’s full of exceptional films to choose from. Last year we went with a few drama suggestions, but this year we’re going to suggest you go all out and go for the most bonkers work you can get your hands on. Maybe it’s the manic Patrick – a horror film that has a coma patient causing chaos and havoc in a hospital. Or, possibly, the out there Harelquin which takes the story of Rasputin and ‘modernises’ it in all manner of mad ways. Or the horror of Next of Kin might be your thing, with a subtle escalation of terror amplifying into a chaotic destructive finale.
23rd – Outback
When people think of Australia, they think about the vast, wide array of nothing that exists in our borders. Anything can happen out there – and anything does happen. Whether it a huge dress soaring in the wind on top of a bus in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, or maybe it’s Tilly Dunnage’s revenge in The Dressmaker, or Ruth’s forced salvation in Holy Smoke!, there’s always something going on in the outback. With all of that said, the quiet, contemplative world of Lightning Creek, as seen through the eyes of Kate Cheel’s Milena in Strange Colours is my pick of outback focused films that you should check out.
24th – In Cinemas Now! – The Australian Dream, The Nightingale
By now, Danger Close and Palm Beach will still be in theatres, but if you’re lucky enough, you might be able to catch The Nightingale – Jennifer Kent’s latest film. If not, then you should most certainly head along to see Stan Grant’s The Australian Dream – one of two documentaries about Adam Goodes and the story of the racism he was submitted to during his AFL career.
25th – Free Choice
As it’s Sunday, maybe this is your time to catch that Aussie flick on Netflix – I Am Mother for example – that you’ve been meaning to get to. The field is wide open for you to choose from today.
26th – True to Life: Documentaries
Australia has been pumping out great documentary after great documentary in the past few years. There is a huge amount of choices to pick from, but for our selection, we’re going to suggest three wildly different films. First up is Jennifer Peedom’s Sherpa – a film about the people who make climbing Mount Everest possible, and the difficulties that they face with the ever challenging and changing task of the worlds highest peak. Next up is Mat de Koning’s kick ass doco Meal Tickets. As raucous a doco as they come, this is one heck of a brilliant film and is easily one of the finest Australian films of the last decade. Finally, it’s Pete Gleeson’s true to life take on Wake in Fright, with the documentary Hotel Coolgardie. A glimpse into a horrifying journey into some kind of hell, this documentary is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and just a little bit terrifying.
27th – Guy Pearce
Guy Pearce has an endless amount of iconic performances in his Australian film career, so picking the cherries off the top, we’re going to suggest checking out his flamboyant performance as Felicia in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, his take on Claudia Karvan in Dating the Enemy, and his mournful man wandering the desolate outback looking for salvation in The Rover. There’s plenty of films to choose from, but these three are the peak performances of his varied career.
28th – Cinefest Oz Winners – Paper Planes, Putuparri and the Rainmakers, Girl Asleep, Ali’s Wedding, Jirga
West Australia’s Cinefest Oz kicks off on August 28th, bringing a huge array of great Australian films to the southwest of Australia. It’s Australia’s richest prize, so for today’s suggestions, we’re going to go with the five films that have walked away with the $100,000 prize. These are the undervalued kids film Paper Planes, the documentary Putuparri and the Rainmakers, the ethereal Girl Asleep, the joyous romance Ali’s Wedding, and the powerful war story Jirga.
29th – Comedy: Cracking Yarns
Australian comedies are a dime a dozen – we make some truly brilliant comedies here that go by unnoticed. So, with that in mind, here are three films that we highly recommend you seek out if you missed them when they were released. Heath Davis’ pitch black comedy Book Week throws one heck of a performance from Alan Dukes into a blender of hilarity as he tries to simply get through another year as an exhausted alcoholic teacher. That’s Not Me has a fantastic central performance from Alice Foulcher as someone who is challenged by her more famous twin sister in a bid to try and live a successful life as an actress. Finally, after seeing it again earlier in the year, I’ll bang the drum again for the work of Yahoo Serious, and highly recommend you all rewatch Young Einstein.
30th – David Gulpilil
As with last year, we’re going to celebrate the work of David Gulpilil. The recipient of the lifetime achievement award at the 2019 NAIDOC celebration, David Gulpilil has delivered some of the finest performances Australia has ever been fortunate enough to witness. To help celebrate David, we’re suggesting you pick up some of his best films, such as Walkabout, Charlie’s Country, or his personal favourite, The Tracker. David commented at NAIDOC: ‘Never forget me. While I am here, I will never forget you. I will still remember you, even though I am gone forever, I will still remember.’ Let’s honour him by always remembering what a great actor her was.
While the decade isn’t over just yet, that doesn’t mean we can’t get the celebration started early by running down some of our favourite films of the past ten years. The list will go live later on in August, but for now, a few of the films we highly recommend checking out that are possibly a little underseen as Teenage Kicks, Healing, Burning Man, and Island of the Hungry Ghosts. Watch this space for the full list.
And that’s it! Another AUSgust year over and done with. To
help celebrate this Australian film month, we’re going to have a competition
that will kick off on August 1st that you’re not going to want to
miss – it’s one heck of a bumper Aussie film pack, with Cargo, Rabbit Proof Fence,
The Castle, Heaven’s Burning, Sweet
Country, Malcolm, The Odd Angry Shot, Ladies in Black, Strange
Colours, and Pawno, being the
films that one lucky person will walk away with.
Keep an eye out for the competition to go live on our Facebook
page, and make sure to join the Facebook group to keep up with the daily discussions, and
use the hashtags #AUSgust and #AustralianFilmMonth to keep up with what’s going
Thank you all for helping to celebrate Australian film!
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