“Is any attention good attention?”, what a feather-ruffling question. A Tv tropes article explains that in regards to a product, attention turned sour has consequences detrimental to the brand, for example, a beauty product surrounded with lots of hype and expectations that is in true fact poor quality will affect future investors and customers from putting any more money into a brand name with an untrustworthy reputation. Similarly, with films and tv paraphernalia like Books, DVDs and video games, critics have the ability to make or break a new release entertainment product if their profile is of a high standard. And if a consumer is not personally impressed with the product they can be returned, even cinema tickets if you decide halfway through you, would not like to sit through this film for whatever reason. (I actually asked my friend this who works at a movie cinema and the customer does have a right to request a refund of movie tickets but it must be before a cutoff point). People have freedom of choice with the entertainment they engage with so what makes specifically an Aussie film intriguing enough to watch?
Landscape plays an extremely important role in films produced in Australia, the sights to be seen in this country is incredible and I agree, does need to be made the most of. However, the wow factor of the vast locations Australia has to offer has been highlighted to the point where characters and storylines are being blurred out as if they were indeed supporting roles to their surrounds. The setting of an Australian film is a character in its own right, humanised and taken into consideration as something to be conquered, understood or accepted (Beeton 2010, p. 114). And the decision to make the Australian landscape of focal point in Australian films is not just a willy-nilly decision, behind the scenes lies a marketing strategy; Many Australian films are set in the common backdrops of the outback or along the coast to reflect an idyllic, rural lifestyle, this appeals to overseas audiences in the hope they will become inspired and make Australia their next travel destination.
In order to define Australian films more than it’s aesthetic appeal in the classic “Australiana” theme, rooted in location, past productions have found ways to expel the stereotypes and shoot a story that is removed from a specific place. 1995 film Babe created a story where there was a strong sense of fairytale, disconnected to any real time, lives or places. Filmed in Robertson Australia but easily recognisable as the English countryside, this in relation to the character’s nationality was blurry as characters had an almost mutual accent that wasn’t typically Australian, American or British but an odd mix between the three. ‘Babe’ turned out to be a successful result of finding something at is ‘all at once familiar and unique’ (Brabazon 2001, p. 151), letting the imagery shine on its own without being tied to a place or culture.
There is, on the other hand, the ability to reflect small subtleties in Australian culture and landscape, finding beauty in our national quirks and landscape without dampening down the storyline and characters. Paper Planes (2015) is an Australian story based on true events. Set in South Australia the film follows the passion of a young boy who finds a talent within himself for building paper planes and hopes to travel to JAPAN for the paper planes championships. Many Australian actors were cast as lead and supporting roles and spoke in a recognisable Australian accent. The film was clearly rooted in Australian lifestyle but not overtly commenting on any recognisable traits or places commonly associated with our national identity. One major location in the film was set in Japan, taking the story on an international journey, exploring a different culture and location setting. The film’s lighthearted, feel-good agenda, avoiding the cringe stereotypes on the way, went on to earn over 5.7 million dollars in ticket sales in cinemas across Australia.
Perhaps the attraction to presenting a typical idealistic image of Australia in Australian films comes from a deep seeded insecurity that we are so unsure of our national identity and how we want to present this to the rest of the world. Our land does make a huge contribution to who we are and how our lives are lived, the target audience and goals of the film will at the end of the day affect how “Aussie” it can get.
Beeton, S 2010, ‘Landscapes as characters: film, tourism and a sense of place’, Metro: media & education magazine, no. 166, pp. 114-118
Brabazon, T 2001, ‘A pig in space? Babe and the problem of landscape’, in Craven, I (ed.), Australian cinema in the 1990s, F.Cass, London, pp. 149-158
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