Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu
Xanadu (1980) Universal
Stories & Ideas

Wed 14 Dec 2022

Summer Watchlist: Australian stories, icons and creators

ACMI Recommends Australia Film Retrospective
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Your museum of screen culture

Say g'day to a selection of classic and contemporary films showing in our cinemas this summer.

Little Tornadoes (2022)

Leo (Mark Leonard Winter), a metalworker and father of two living in a rural town hrown, is thrown into abject confusion by the recent abandonment of his wife, Camille. Unable to draw on any kind of emotional or practical support from his despondent father, Leo accepts the advice of a co-worker, a migrant from Sicily, to ask his newly arrived sister, Maria (Silvia Colloca), if she’ll lend a hand in the kitchen and with the kids.

Why you should see it: Aaron Wilson’s sensitive direction brings out the best in his uniformly talented cast, and he co-wrote the screenplay with acclaimed author Christos Tsiolkas (The Slap, Damascus). Cinematographer Stefan Duscio (The Dry, Judy & Punch) and composer Robert Mackenzie (The Hunter, Lore) both add to the film’s expressive visual palette and atmosphere.

Check session times for Little Tornadoes and read more

No Way to Forget and A Walk with Words

No Way to Forget (1996): Gunditjmara director Richard Frankland’s powerful short film is based on his experiences as a lawyer on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. A young Koorie man travelling the lonely highways of the Australian outback reflects on the tragic experiences of Aboriginal people in Australian prisons.

A Walk with Words: The Poetry of Romaine Morton (2000): Erica Glynn's short biographical film showcases the life and poetry of performance artist Romaine Moreton and her struggles to gain freedom.

Screens with

Tongues Untied (1989)

Marlon T. Riggs' experimental film – blending documentary footage with personal account and poetry – provides a language for black gay identity in the US. Riggs states that the film hopes to "...shatter the nation's brutalising silence on matters of sexual and racial difference".

Why you should see these films: Passionate and eloquent indictments of the entrenched racism in Australia and the US, these works are screening as part of our major exhibition, How I See It: Blak Art and Film, and its accompanying film program – make a day of it and pop into the exhibition beforehand.

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You Won’t be Alone (2022)

After an isolated childhood hidden away from the world in a cave, a teenaged girl is liberated by Old Maid Maria, a mysterious 200-year-old woman who once rendered her non-verbal as an infant and has returned to claim her as a protege. Together they skirt around and in-between mountain villages in 19th-century Macedonia learning how to survive.

Why you should see it: You Won't Be Alone surprised many when it arrived by way of the Sundance Film Festival as the supremely confident debut feature film for director Goran Stolevski. The film draws on the traditions and aesthetics of folk horror without being beholden to them and remains free to embark on its own unique narrative pathway.

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Picnic at Hanging Rock – Director's Cut (1975)

In Peter Weir's undisputed classic of the Australian Gothic genre, a party of boarders at the exclusive Appleyard College and their chaperones travel to the magnificent ancient rock formation at Mt. Macedon. When a teacher and three of the senior girls vanish during the course of the afternoon, their disappearance sets off a chain of disquieting and tragic events.

Why you should see it: Credited with reinvigorating the ‘70s Australian new wave in film, Peter Weir’s sublime, enduring mystery classic was shot by not one but two key creatives who would go on to each win an Academy Award – Cinematographer, Russell Boyd (Master and Commander, in 2004) and camera operator, John Seale (for 1996’s The English Patient). The films dreamlike atmosphere was further enhanced by Bruce Smeaton’s evocative score and Gheorghe Zamfir’s haunting pan flutes.

Check session times for Picnic at Hanging Rock – Director's Cut and read more

Friends and Strangers (2021)

Twentysomethings Alice (Emma Diaz) and Ray (Fergus Wilson) take a spontaneous camping pitstop on a road trip home to Sydney. They’re not romantic interests, they’re not really friends, so what are they doing there, lying side-by-side in a tent in the middle of nowhere? Friends and Strangers is a chaotic and contemplative exploration of colonialism, privilege, and existential ennui in 2020s Australia – the new Australian ‘mumblecore’.

Why you should see it: Gleefully absurd, deadpan and unobtrusively political, Friends and Strangers captures a particular slice of Aussie ‘ordinariness’ – from pretty seaside jaunts to the expansive living rooms of affluent Eastern suburbanites – romantically shot by cinematographer Dimitri Zaunders. The film marks the arrival of James Vaughan, a bold new voice in Australian cinema.

Check session times for Friends and Strangers and read more

Morning of the Earth (1972)

Shooting on 16mm, Albert Falzon's landmark counter-culture surf classic captured the spectacle of the NSW North Coast. He also travelled to Hawaii and Bali, where he shot pioneering footage of surfers Stephen Cooney and Rusty Miller – the first to surf the now world-famous point break, Uluwatu.

Why you should see it: Morning of the Earth recently underwent a three-year remastering effort. The original 16mm rolls that had been stored at the National Film and Sound Archive as part of the NFSA’s 2005 Kodak/Atlab project were digitised in a lab in Los Angeles, where a painstaking frame-by-frame restoration process followed. Falzon hoped the film would help “shift human consciousness towards a more symbiotic relationship with nature”. See it in 4K at ACMI.

Check session times for Morning of the Earth and read more

Puberty Blues (1981)

In Bruce Beresford’s cult Oz rites-of-passage teen drama, Debbie (Nell Schofield) and Sue (Jad Capelja) are over the moon when they’re accepted into the Greenhills gang, an elite group of high school students who rule a stretch of Cronulla beach; but the shine soon wears off the girls’ enviable new status as surf groupies.

Why you should see it: Before American teen movies swamped Australia’s cinemas from the mid-1980s onwards, Puberty Blues (1981) captivated audiences with its honest and raw depiction of Australian adolescence. Not only did it explore teen social hierarchies, peer pressure and machismo, it reinforced the power of female friendship and inspired a generation of young Australian women to hit the water.

Check session times for Puberty Blues (1981)

Xanadu (1980)

Xaaaanadu! Olivia Newton-John and legendary Hollywood hoofer Gene Kelly roller-disco their way into immortality in the 1980 romantic musical fantasy powered by ELO.

Why you should see it: If you let it, Xanadu will transport you to a state of almost unbridled euphoria that transcends its clunky ‘plot’ and the bizarre but oddly compelling musical mash-up of 1940s Andrews Sisters-inspired retro-kitsch tunes and 80s glam-rock. RIP Olivia Newton-John.

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They’re a Weird Mob (1966)

Nino (Italian film star Walter Chiari) – is a visiting sports reporter in over his head when he arrives in Sydney expecting to work for a bilingual magazine but discovers his contact has skipped town. At a loose end in a foreign country with limited knowledge of its social customs, Nino lands a job as a builder’s labourer, where he gets a fast lesson in the local vernacular and Australian way of life.

Why you should see it: Adapted from Nino Culotta’s – aka John O’Grady’s – comic novel set in Menzies-era Australia, Michael Powell’s They’re a Weird Mob was one of the first locally produced films to deal openly with latent xenophobia and prejudice against 'new Australians'.

Check session times for They’re a Weird Mob and read more

See what else is on in our cinemas over summer 2022/23

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