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A Short Summary

I had thought at one stage I might give another A-Z tour díhorizon of what happened in 2013 but the departure of Ruth Harley and many of her senior team at Screen Australia took the wind out of the sails and the  proposed forensic examination of everything fell apart. When the debacle of Dr Ruthís tenure and the mostly dismal product of our local industry that it produced over the last five years finally works its way through the system, probably by the end of 2014 there may just be some new hope that we might make more films that bring some lustre to our film production and justify the public money spent.

Given that itís been a year when we changed government and installed a sort of right wing coalition which has some variable impulses where it comes to industry protection and assistance, itís interesting that while Holden and SPC Ardmona are, among others, being given tough love by the likes of the silent Andrew Robb, nobody has even remotely focussed on the film industry, a sector where protection, tax-breaks, government handouts, grants, loans, guarantees, gifts and transfer of public property to the private sector  are absolutely essential for survival. Just as with Holden and Toyota, the film industry has prospered to whatever degree it prospers by state and federal government largesse. 

As a side issue, I once tried to work out just how many bureaucrats are employed to support the industry but in the absence of serious forensics by some institution like the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library I gave up. I still reckon that there may be anything up to a thousand people employed by the public sector to provide support and assistance to the film industry. At an average of $100,000 per person, the cost of this desk bound infrastructure might come to $100 million alone before a single film or production is made.

Many years ago the late and highly esteemed John Button once told me that for most of his time as Industry Minister there was a submission on his desk suggesting that the Productivity Commission or its predecessors should review the industry. Button knew that any rational examination would recommend it be closed down immediately. Such a proposal would bring unwarranted public wrath on the Government from a poor, struggling but loved sector of the economy that everyone believes is essential to our cultural life. That sector has always had, and maintains a highly visible and audible lobbying operation. That lobbying is in fact led by Screen Australia and the various state film bureaucracies. Button never bothered to take any action. Reviews since Buttonís time have always been predicated on the best form of increased assistance never on whether there should be any reduction or elimination.

But itís now 2014. Car manufacturers are leaving. SPC Ardmona (a brand on which we were all brought up) is going to go out backwards, and as old and creaky parts of the economy get into trouble, there will be ever more calls for the Government to shell out money and save jobs.  So far the Government is copping it sweet and seems to have decided to resist hurling money around. It does  contain a couple of tough guys who see any industry support as corporate welfare. (Iím not at all convinced that Treasurer Hockey is one of the tough guys by the way. He has always been a milksop more worried about popularity than good decisions, which is no doubt part of the reason he succumbed to the Nats over the Graincorp takeover...but I digress.) 

Over coming months it will be interesting to see whether Tony Abbottís Commission of Audit takes the opportunity to lift the veil on film industry assistance and suggest changes that might make things tougher for films to be made or cause them to be made more cheaply than at present. The Commission and the Governmentís response may of course take the cumbersome route through a recommendation that the Productivity Commission finally get the chance to have a long hard look at things and see whether film industry largesse is warranted.

Iíve always said if we made better films, and more of them that people go out and pay to see, and if we had an international reputation for making high quality works of art that competed well with the best of all nations then that would be in my view a simple but quite profound reason to keep the assistance going. If the film industry is only about job creation well, look around Shepparton, the outer suburbs of Adelaide and Melbourneís inner industrial areas and see if it should be spared.

So on to more fun things.... The envelopes, please. The best of the year in various categories were

Going Out (In alphabetical order)

The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, Sydney Film Festival)

American Hustle, (David O Russell, Randwick Ritz)

Anatomy of a Paperclip (Ikeda Akira, Vancouver Film Festival)


Ani Inoto (Kimura Sotoji, Bologna Cinema Ritrovato)

Beyond the Hills (Christian Mungiu, Dendy Newtown)

Blue is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche, Vancouver Film Festival)


Closed Curtain (Jafar Panahi, Sydney Film Festival)

The Darkside (Warwick Thornton, Verona Paddington)

Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, Dendy Newtown)

Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron, Event Cinemas George St)

Humanity and Paper Balloons (Yamanaka Sadao, Bologna )

Kill Your Darlings (John Krokidas, Sony Preview Theatrette)

Like Father Like Son (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Vancouver)

The Lunchbox (Ritesh Bhatra, Vancouver)

Manuscripts Dont Burn (Mohammad Rasoulof, Vancouver)

Menaces (Edmond T Greville, Bologna)

Mud (Jeff Nicholls, Chauvel, Paddington)

Noose (Edmond T Greville, Sydney)

Rhymes for Young Ghouls (Jeff Barnaby, Vancouver)

Sans Lendemain (Max Ophuls, Bologna)

Silver Linings Playbook (David O Russell, Randwick)

The Spectacular Now (James Ponsoldt, Randwick)

A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke,Vancouver)

Trapped (Parviz Chahbazi, Vancouver)

Trap Street (Vivian Qu, Vancouver)


Staying In

Black Friday, No Smoking, Gulaal (all Anurag Kashyup)

Una Donna Ha Ucciso (Vittorio Cottafavi)

Edge of the World (Michael Powell)

The Gangster (Gordon Wiles)

Divine & La Tendre Ennemie (Max Ophuls)

Gabriel Over the White House (Gregory La Cava)

+ Three Short Films all seen on DVD

Deeper Than Yesterday (Ariel Kleiman)

Artun & Whale Valley (both Gudmunder Amar Gudmundsson)

All in all, a good year aided and assisted by catching up at last with much of the great TV made these days and decades - including Homeland, Luther, The Hour, 4 series of The Sopranos, Downton Abbey, Justified, Paradeís End, Borgen, Penance, Top of the Lake, Prisoners of War, Redfern Now, The Killing and Twin Peaks. I have also had the great pleasure of seeing a preview copy of Haydn Keenanís stunning four part doco series shortly to be seen on SBS, Persons of Interest. It may be the best thing to go out over the local airwaves in 2014.

Finally, itís also been a pleasure to be involved with the National Film and Sound Archiveís Oral History Program. This year I had the pleasure of interviewing Alan Ramsey, John Duigan, Tim Read, Don Groves and Julie Rigg. Their thoughts which will eventually all be available to the public were uniformly remarkable and provided me with considerable pleasure in hearing them first hand. My thanks to each for the time they gave.


Best movies of 2013