I sometimes think I must be the only Brit over the age of 21 not to have gone to Australia. It seems like a right of passage. You visit Sydney, go to Bondi Beach, go surfing, drink a lot and spend Christmas on a beach. It genuinely looks like heaven on earth.
From watching films, I get the same view of Australia of a fun-loving, friendly country. I also see a darker history that your average tourist doesn’t seem to realise exists. Never fear! You might not have the resources to visit Australia any time soon but I do have three wonderful films that all portray a different side to the land down under and are sure to get your wanderlust juices pumping.
*I myself am a huge fan of the Australian soap Neighbours. It’s bloody brilliant, and stand by the fact that no film could provide a better slice of Australian life than my beloved Neighbours.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
I had only just watched The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert a few months ago. And I went in almost completely blind. I knew it was about Drag Queens and it was set in Australia, but that’s it. However, in my mind that should have equated to an extremely fun, adventurous film, as it definitely turned out to be. Queen of the Desert is about two drag queens and one transwoman who drive from Sydney to Alice Springs to perform a four week run at a hotel there. The titular ‘Priscilla’ as you can see from the shot above is their vehicle.
It’s honestly a really great film and not a subject you would imagine coming from Australia. Because of the travels in the films, the locations featured include King’s Canyon, which acted as a stand in for Uluru/Ayer’s Rock. Because, well, you REALLY can’t be climbing Uluru.
The Proposition (2005)
Because of the vast desert covering Australia (pretty much the majority of the country’s surface) it’s the perfect place to create a pseudo-Western. The film is set during the 1880s in the Australian outback and follows the events of the rape and murder of the Hopkins family.
The reason I chose a fairly bloody/violent film above a film like say, Tracks (2013) which is known to be more wanderlust-inducing, is frankly because The Proposition is a better made film. The film has also been praised for being uncommonly faithful in its portrayal and treatment of indigenous Australians. Which is extremely bloody important with a film set in the outback, so for that reason I recommend it wholeheartedly for anyone visiting Australia.
Ahh yes. The landmark, definitive Australian film. Starring to genuine Hollywood Aussies, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Directed by honest-to-god Australian Baz Luhrmann who somehow managed to keep all his usual glitter from out in front of the camera. Set between 1939 and 1942 (and we all know what was going on then), the film depicts a series of fictitious events in Darwin, Northern Australia including a terrible bombing. The film also had filming in Sydney, Bowen and Kununurra.
It was a critically ‘meh’ film but you don’t call a film by a country’s name without thinking it’s quite important to that country historically and culturally. In terms of representation, the film does focus on the ‘stolen generations’ where thousands of mixed raced indigenous children were forced from their homes into white society. Luhrmann has stated the film depicts a ‘mythologised’ Australia, and I don’t know what good that is for anyone. I’ve been sounding quite negative about this film, but the visuals are absolutely effing stunning. And let’s fact it, are we surprised? It is Australia after all.
Have you ever watched any of these films set in Australia? Or have you been to Australia and have any more films to recommend?
Other films: The Inbetweeners 2 (2014), Tracks (2013), Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Crocodile Dundee (1986), Mad Max 2 (1981), Ned Kelly (2003)