Up until very recently, I avoided all contact with Australian movies.
The Aussie film industry had fallen deep into the shadows of mainstream Hollywood, and the cinema of my country had stumbled astray, lost in the heap of movies we label ‘foreign’.
Some time last year I vowed to change my ways. When browsing new releases, I began to actively search for Australian content. Surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult to find at all. Hidden in plain sight, Australian films sat next to their Hollywood rivals in mass. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it either, but it turns out we have a film industry.
Over the last year I have paid to watch around 10 Australian movies.
I have begun to recognise common actors, common themes, and another very cool commonality: they’re all bloody good.
Yes, for years, the quality of Australian cinema had been hiding right under my nose. This week I went to see Down Under, a very funny and very black comedy about the Cronulla Riots. Exploring one of the nation’s most testing and grotesque events, Down Under had me laughing throughout, but not without moments of drama that punched me in the gut.
A few months ago I attended a screening of The Daughter, another fantastic Aussie film about the shattering revelation of buried family secrets. When the credits rolled, nobody talked or moved. I genuinely felt like I had just run some kind of emotional movie marathon.
Such emotional reactions aren’t rare. Australian cinema boasts a certain rawness, a believability that leads me to view the narratives and their characters as more than just a movie created for the sole purpose of entertainment.
As a result, the action and events possess greater power and ‘oomph’. It is difficult to leave the cinema unaffected in some way.
My new local movie habits have made me question the grade of films we get out of Hollywood. When was the last time I felt paralysed when the credits rolled at the end of a multi-multi-million dollar American blockbuster? Obviously Hollywood is responsible for some of the greatest films of all time, many of which are deeply moving. But recently, the garbage far outweighs the quality. It seems impossible to find anything decent within the mountain of flimsy action and superhero mediocrity.
And yet the sad thing is, I could write appraisal after appraisal for Australian cinema.
I could give every Aussie movie I watch a 10/10 rating. I could even say they hand out free popcorn at the door. But it wouldn’t change a thing. For some reason, our perception of Australian films is that they are cheap and poor, almost like they are from another country.
When push comes to shove and we have 16 bucks to spend on a movie ticket, we’re going to choose the Hollywood blockbuster. And fair enough – this is the safer option, right? Well, having experienced both worlds, I’d argue otherwise. How many times have we been let down by films hyped up to be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to anyone ever and we’d rather watch it than solve global hunger (cough Suicide Squad cough)?
Here’s why it’s safer to spend your money on home-grown movies.
Firstly, you can’t be let down because nobody holds high expectations of them in the first place. Secondly, you won’t be let down because they’re almost always good.
And I emphasise the need to actually spend money on these films for a reason.
While Australian movies may be great, if nobody pays to see them, they won’t succeed. This means that future funding will be cut, and the films that are already struggling will be subjected to lower budgets, leading to inevitably poorer final products.
But more importantly, go to Australian films because they’re good.
Defeat the stigma that movies from Hollywood, or any other country for that matter, are superior. We have incredible talent in every field: sport, music, art. And that emphatically applies to cinema as well. If you don’t believe me, test it out yourself. You’ll thank me later.