Key Assumptions in Australian Films

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Australian Content, especially films, has always suffered within the media landscape. There are many reasons Australian films are not successful at the box office, Burns and Eltham (2010 p.111) state that un-popular Australian films are due to; low production and marketing budget, distribution bottleneck and poor investments. Internationally Australian films are not always received well due to often culturally specific elements that other nations simply do not understand. However, this has resulted in contemporary film makers attempting to make non-culturally specific films such as Daybreakers, in an attempt to obtain a larger audience domestically and internationally (Ryan 2012 p151).

It is a key assumption that Australian films are saturated with culturally specific elements. Many Australian films will contain; iconic Australian scenery, Australian slang, usually Australian talent being the lead and often strong stereotypical elements. However, Australian audiences often find this content to be cheesy, cringe worthy and B grade (Ryan 2012 p. 150).

The main assumption is that the industry is meant to promote a positive image of Australia through the portrayal of “Australianess”. Ryann (2012 p. 143) notes that the 1970’s Australian film industry was sustained through cultural policy to ensure the development of Australian stories. By 1975 The Australian Film Commission favoured movies that shared a national identity. Clancy (1985 p.21) states that when it came to economic and cultural clashes, cultural always won, asserting that Australian films are part of the expression of Australian Life.

Although audiences have shied away from national identity/ culture in cinema. It seems that Government film agencies assume that Australian films need to positively portray Australia internationally and thus perhaps resulting as a travel commercial. However, it seems that these assumptions that Australian film characters will portray the Australian stereotype has resulted in “ocker comedy”. For example the film The Castle has become a classic Australian film known for its famous one liners such as; “tell him he’s dreaming”. The Castle is a classic Australian film as it plays on many of the stereotypes of Australian culture, however, this is satirical stereotyping. Rather than The Castle portraying cultural identity, it is creating a satirical story around Australian culture resulting in a comedic film. Unfortunately this film was not received well internationally and was shown with subtitles in America.  Compare this film to Strictly Ballroom, which has not implemented a strong sense of national identity; instead has a strong narrative of a young girl learning ballroom dancing to compete in the National Championships. Unlike The Castle the Australian culture within this film is not intended to be laughed at or be used to entice travellers to the country.

Audiences hold strong assumptions of what they believe Australian films will incorporate yet Australian audiences seem to shy away from films that are overt with national identity. Many Government agencies that support local film production assume that the films they support portray a positive image and show true national identity. Though this has led to often a stereotypical take on Australian society resulting in the boycott of Australian films. Even if films forgo cultural elements sadly many consumers will have pre-existing assumptions regarding all Australian films.

References

Burns, A and Eltham, B 2010, “Boom and Bust in Australian Screen Policy: 10BA, the Film Finance Corporation and Hollywood’s ‘race to the bottom’, Media International Australia, No. 136, p 103-118.

Clancy, J 1985, The search for form in Australian cinema, Island Magazine, No. 22, pp. 21-25.

Ryan, M 2012, “A silver bullet for Australian cinema? Genre movies and the audience debate”, Studies in Australasian Cinema, Vol. 6, No.2, p 141-157.

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