Monday, 23 March 2009

focus on wendy hughes

Celebrate the career of prolific and celebrated multiple award-winning Australian actor Wendy Hughes at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) with Focus on Wendy Hughes. Starting her film career in the early 70's most of Hughes' most significant work was during the period in Australian cinema that is considered by many to be the renaissance of Australian film.

Between 1978 and 1988, Wendy Hughes was nominated for Best Actress six times by the Australian Film Institute (AFI) and won Best Actress in 1983 for Carl Schultz's Careful, He Might Hear You (1983). She was nominated in the same category for Newsfront (1978), My Brilliant Career (1979), Lonely Hearts (1982), My First Wife (1984) and Boundaries of the Heart (1988). ACMI will be screening all of these films in the season apart from My Brilliant Career. She also won two logies for Best Supporting Actress in 1977 with Power without Glory (1976) and in 1984 for Return to Eden (1983).

Focus on Wendy Hughes takes a closer look at the film career of one of Australia's most daring actors, who is integral to the development and maturity of Australian cinema over the last 40 years. Hughes has worked closely with iconic Australian artists, from cinematographer John Seale and writers David Williamson and Bob Ellis to directors including Paul Cox and Phillip Noyce. 

ACMI film programmer, James Nolen says, "Wendy Hughes has worked with some of the most important directors in the history of Australian cinema including Bruce Beresford, Paul Cox, Philip Noyce and Tim Burstall (Alvin Purple) as well as some of Australia's greatest actors including John Hargreaves and Colin Friels, in some of Australia's most loved films. Carl Schultz's Careful He Might Hear You and Cox's My First Wife are only some of these. She is a truly a centre point of greatness."

"This is a very exciting program for ACMI as it will be the first time we dedicate a Focus On season to an Australian female actor and moreover, perhaps one who may not be as widely known as other more obvious choices. It gives ACMI the chance to shine a light on one of the important players in the development and productivity of Australian cinema," says James. 

James Nolen describes Newsfront as a turning point in Australian cinema. "Phillip Noyce's Newsfront was and continues to be seen as a defining moment in Australian cinema for the cast, crew and audiences who saw the film at the time." Hughes continues to collaborate with directors Phillip Noyce and Paul Cox, whose most recent film, Salvation (2009), has just been released nationally in Australia.

ACMI will be screening Cox and Hughes' second and third collaboration, Lonely Hearts and My First Wife. Lonely Hearts is a gentle suburban romance where Hughes stars as a timid bank clerk who meets and falls in love with a piano tuner twenty years her senior. My First Wife charts the emotional lives of a group of middle class Melburnians dealing with the aftermath of a divorce, and is based in parts on the breakdown of Cox's own marriage. Recently restored, My First Wife will be screening as the Opening Night film of the season and Cox and Hughes will be in attendance.

Of the Noyce and Hughes collaborations, ACMI will screen Newsfront and Shadows of the Peacock (1989), otherwise known as Echoes of Paradise.  Looking at the rivalry between two newsreel companies, Newsfront is set in post World War II Australia and seamlessly integrates archival footage with newly filmed materials. Bob Ellis' screenplay incorporates characters loosely based on leading figures in the Australian film industry while focusing on significant events such as the referendum to ban the Communist party, the Maitland floods and the 1956 Olympic Games.  Filmed nine years later, Shadows of the Peacock (1987) follows the crisis of a woman who abandons her middle class life and three children (including a teenaged Claudia Karvan) and takes off to Thailand after her father dies and she finds out that her husband has been unfaithful. When she falls under the spell of Raka (John Lone, M. Butterfly), an exiled traditional Balinese dancer she must choose between him and her former existence. This film was one of Hughes' last major Australian films before she embarked on a career in the USA. 

Another artist Hughes collaborated with was Australian actor and director Lex Marinos who in addition to his work on television, directed two feature films, both of which Hughes played the lead. Based on Colleen McCullough's steamy best-selling novel, and nominated for an AFI award for Best Script, An Indecent Obsession is set in a psychiatric ward.  When seemingly 'normal' and handsome patient (played by Gary Sweet) is admitted he stirs all sorts of repressed and unhealthy desires in Sister Langtry (Hughes) and her unstable wards. Boundaries of the Heart is a celebration of Australiana inspired by Robert Altman's Fool for Love.

Other films screening include Bob Ellis' Warm Nights on a Slow Moving Train (1987), considered to be part of a highbrow genre that was prevalent in the 1980's which challenged conventions of art house cinema. A highlight of the Focus On season is the highly accomplished winner of eight AFI Awards; Carl Schultz's Careful He Might Hear You (1983). Set during the Great Depression, it is an evocative and universally appealing film with exquisite cinematography by John Seale, who later went on to work as Director of Photography on Rain Man, Gorillas in the Mist, The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Having polarised audiences the first time around, the box office success Peterson (1974) will also screen as part of ACMI's season. Peterson is a sobering critique of Australian life in the early 1970s. It was the second collaboration between David Williamson and Tim Burstall after their successful Stork (1971).

The most recent film screening is last year's Movie Network Project Greenlight Australia winners, Kenn and Simon Mcrae's The View from Greenhaven. Producers of the project Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris Moore, Project Greenlight originated in 2000 as an innovative way for emerging filmmakers to have their films funded. Every year, Project Greenlight Australia selects one finalist who they award AU$1 Million production budget and a guaranteed theatrical release. Wendy and co-writer/director Simon Mcrae will be in conversation for the first screening. 

Hughes' work in television was extensive and in homage ACMI will be screening one late night Star Trek episode in which Hughes stars as Lieutenant Commander Nella Daren, the new head of the Star Fleet's science department. Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season 6, Episode 19 will screen on Saturday 25 April at 10pm so catch it after Paul Cox's My First Wife at 8pm.  "It just shows the scope of her work and it's almost an hour of Wendy's ultimate characteristic cool, but with Star Trek as the backdrop, it just makes it all so much cooler," says James.
Witness Wendy in all her incarnations in this selection of some of Australia's most important 70's and 80's recently restored films this April in ACMI's Focus on Wendy Hughes.

Focus On Wendy Hughes is on at ACMI Thursday April 16 - Sunday 26 April.


Further information

Lior Opat
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2475 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 655


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