australian culture and customs

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10 famous films for insight into the Aussie psyche

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Dese...

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (soundtrack) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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  1. Gallipoli (1981) – Gallipoli is about an important historical Australian event in Turkey during the 1st World War where many Australian soldiers died. This movie reveals the character Australian soldiers were famous for, although only the good parts.
  2. Bran Nue Dae (2010) Terrific musical comedy with some insights into Aboriginal life in the 60’s
  3. Red Dog (2011) – gives you a good look at life and camaraderie in an isolated mining town and the Australian love of animals. My friend Garry who has worked on the mines reckons, however, that it makes us look like idiots (it’s parody in many ways). We were all very sad to hear of the demise of Koko, the dog who played Red Dog, in 2012 at only seven years of age.
  4. Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) – an incredible story that follows the impact on one family of Australia’s policy of forcibly removing Aboriginal children from their parents from the 1910’s to the 1970’s. A challenging movie which has moved many of my ESL students over the years.
  5. Lantana (2001) – beautifully crafted, dark murder mystery set in the affluent suburbs of Sydney starring Anthony LaPaglia (yes, he’s one of ours), Kerry Armstrong, Geoffrey Rush (ours too) and Barbara Hershey (not ours).  A body is found and the lives of strangers become entangled.  One of my personal favourites.
  6. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
     (1994). Drag queens from the city in the desert meet the locals to many different reactions. Provides insight into gay culture and different communities around Australia. Stars famous Australian actors (no, they aren’t American), Guy Pearce and Hugo Weaving.  Another cult classic.
  7. The Castle (1997) – a real gem which follows the fate of a working class family living on land that the airport wants to reclaim.  It explores the family’s ignorance of powerful systems and the strength and power of the family against adversity. ‘The castle’ refers to the family home and comes from the expression ,’a man’s home is his castle’. My ESL students loved this movie for getting a sense of what we call the ‘little Aussie battler’ identity, it’s also very funny.
  8. Jindabyne (2006) – a dark murder tale that explores the reactions of a number of different characters to the rights and wrongs of the way the discovery of a corpse is handled by a group of men. Paul Kelly, a famous Australian songwriter, wrote the song, ‘Everything’s Turning to White’ inspired by the short story, So Much Water So Close to Home’ by Raymond Carver on which the film is based. Paul Kelly also wrote the score to the movie.
  9. Muriel’s Wedding (1994) – starring Toni Collette (our girl) this movie looks at the culture of marriage, peer pressure and not fitting in in suburban Australia. Funny yet poignant.
  10. Looking for Alibrandi (2000) – about a first-generation Italian-Australian girl negotiating all of the challenges and conflicts that coming from a different culture and being a teenager can bring.  This film was very popular as a high school text in the 2000’s. Stars Pia Miranda, Greta Scacchi (another Aussie lass) and Anthony LaPaglia (did I mention he was also Australian?)

…and one more lesser known film from 2012, Wish You Were Here.  I’ve included this because it tells the story of a group of Australians who go on holiday to South East Asia, something we love to do, but one of them never returns.  This film gives good insight into contemporary younger Australians at home and while travelling. 

If you like movies, check out the Tropfest short film website to see some different Australian views and creative expression

3 comments on “10 famous films for insight into the Aussie psyche

  1. SoundEagle
    February 10, 2013

    Is the film “Australia” too mainstream to be included?

    A good list all in all.

    • Helene Markmann
      February 10, 2013

      To be honest, I haven’t actually seen this, but I can’t say I’ve heard one good review of it so… Glad you like the rest of the list.

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