Australian cinema: history, identity, suffering

This page is under development. It grows from earlier academic work looking at the relationship between cultural identity and cinema but takes a different direction. Well into the twenty first century these questions were mainly connected to origins, ethnicity and representation. While academics and others are still struggling to articulate some kind of coherent position on this – the latest struggle focussing on indigenous/First Nations recognition in the Australian constitution – there are deeper elements to do with embodiment, collectivity, trauma and suffering which have been present in certain strands of Australian cinema for many years. Mainly because of their popular “low-culture” appeal they have been dismissed as unimportant and have rarely been the subject of theoretical analysis. Or any analysis at all. Some of these preoccupations are now surfacing in Australian writing, including “respectable” literary productions, while Australian cinema as such seems to have abandoned itself to the seductions of Hollywood and internationalisation and stopped local production altogether. An increasing number of television series have taken its place, but very weakly, limited by what seems to be an implicit agreement that Australian productions must avoid extremities of all kinds and remain acceptable to a middle-class gaze.

In some remarks here, I will outline a trauma theory of Australian popular cinema, which links it to some contemporary literary production. The themes of bodily threat, psychological disarray, collectivity and resilience are placed in a dynamic relationship with nature and the environment, as potential foe or ultimate guarantor of survival.

It’s a wild world …

Scenes from Bait, 2012, Dir: Kimble Rendell, Screenplay Russell Mulcahy, John Kim. Remade in 3D in 2017.

A freak tsunami traps a group of people in a submerged grocery store. As they try to escape, they are hunted by white sharks hungry for meat.