Cinema Australia Original Content:
by MATTHEW EELES
Tomorrow I will reveal your favourite Australian film of 2019 which will also take out the Cinema Australia 2019 Audience Award. But before I do, here’s my top 5 Australian films of the year.
What a big year it has been for Australian cinema.
We had a higher number of co-productions than usual including Sophie Hyde’s Animals and Anthony Maras’ Hotel Mumbai. We had an exciting number of films directed by women and many films starring actors with disabilities including Standing Up For Sunny and Luke Sullivan’s Reflections in the Dust. I keep banging on about that last point but I see it as being an incredibly exciting time to be a part of the Australian film industry for that one point alone.
If you want to hear more about my opinion on the current state of Australian films then you can listen to this Cinema Australia Podcast episode which covers 2019 in greater depth.
But for now, here are the five Australian films of 2019 which absolutely blew me away!
Join in the conversation by leaving your opinion in the comments below. We’ve also included the video below to remind you of some of the great Australian films released this year.
5. Standing up for Sunny
Written and Directed by Steven Vidler
Produced by Jamie Hilton, Michael Pontin and Drew Baily
Starring RJ Mitte, Philippa Northeast, Italia Hunt, Josh McConville and Barry Humphries
Standing Up For Sunny follows Travis (RJ Mitte), a quick-witted young man with cerebral palsy and some serious anger management issues, who agrees to help write new material for the slightly damaged, amateur comedienne, Sunny (Philippa Northeast). Sparks fly as Travis and Sunny reveal themselves to each other through the therapy of stand-up comedy. Vidler’s script, with its hilarious one liners and razor sharp dialogue, infuses tragedy and comedy with deft precision. The film’s antics may remind some viewers of Romi Trower’s unique and colourful, What If It Works?, were Luke Ford’s OCD sufferer Adrian falls for Anna Samson’s Grace who has Multiple Personality Disorder. It’s refreshing to see genuine disabilities represented in Australian cinema – most recently in Stevie Cruz-Martin and Daniel Monk’s Pulse and now with Standing Up For Sunny. This kind of diversity on our screen succeeds in challenging our perception and attitude towards people with a disability, but Standing Up For Sunny’s real strength is that it reminds us that we should be laughing more, even if it’s at ourselves.
4. The Australian Dream
Directed by Daniel Gordon
Written by Stan Grant
Produced by John Battsek, Nick Batzias, Sarah Thomson and Virginia Whitwell
Featuring Adam Goodes, Stan Grant, Nova Peris, Gilbert McAdam, Tracey Holmes, Linda Burney, Nicky Winmar, Nathan Buckley and Natalie Goodes
AFL is the greatest game on Earth. As well as being an incredibly successful, inspiring, and elite sporting competition which attracts millions of viewers every year, AFL also has a very ugly side to it – barefaced, abhorrent racism which, to this day, continues to rear its ugly head, even during the off season. I’ve never been as moved by an Australian documentary as I was by The Australian Dream. It moved me because of the subject obviously, but I was also moved by it because of my passionate for AFL. This is a confronting masterpiece which holds up a mirror most fans will never want to look into. The Australian Dream is a film audiences must endure, as it’s too gut wrenching to enjoy. Like me, you’ll be questioning how we let this happen to Goodes for so long. Directed by Daniel Gordon and written by Stan Grant, The Australian Dream uses the remarkable and inspirational story of AFL legend Adam Goodes as the prism through which to tell a deeper and more powerful story about race, identity and belonging.
3. Judy & Punch
Written and Directed by Mirrah Foulkes
Produced by Michele Bennett, Nash Edgerton and Danny Gabai
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Damon Herriman, Benedict Hardie, Terry Norris, Daisy Axon and Paul Ireland
Writer and director Mirrah Foulkes delivers a knockout blow with her terrifically bonkers Judy & Punch. It’s rare for a first-time feature filmmaker to pull off something so ambitious in Australia which makes this very violent and timely film a magnificent achievement and an absolute must-see! Judy & Punch joins The Nightingale and Animals as the trio of Australian film in 2019 which features the mistreatment of an infant which adds to the anxiety of this blacker-than-charcoal comedy. Damon Herriman and Mia Wasikowska give two of the best performances of the year and you’d expect nothing less from the two international stars. It would be unfair not to give credit to composer François Tétaz, costume designer Edie Kurzer and production designer Josephine Ford who are all responsible for the film’s flawless aesthetics.
2. Hotel Mumbai
Directed by Anthony Maras
Written by John Collee and Anthony Maras
Produced by Mike Gabrawy, Gary Hamilton, Basil Iwanyk, Andrew Ogilvie and Julie Ryan
Starring Dev Patel, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Jason Isaacs and Angus McLaren
Hotel Mumbai is a rare Australian film: a heart-pounding, blood-soaked, white-knuckle nightmare of the highest quality. It’s a major achievement for a first-time feature filmmaker and one which will rocket director Anthony Maras from the world of politically charged Australian shorts to the big, bright lights of international cinema. The intensity of Hotel Mumbai is relentless. You won’t be released from its powerful grip until long after the credits have rolled. Even when the film does settle itself from thunderous gunfire and spine-chilling screams of mercy, you’ll remain on the edge of your seat, jaw dropped, tears welling in your eyes as desperate characters attempt to escape an unimaginable horror. The scenario is based on real life terror attacks in Mumbai, focusing on the events that took place at the magnificent Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in 2008. 174 people were murdered in cold blood when ten gunmen burst into the hotel on a mission to kill as many people as they could. The siege went on for four days.
1. The Nightingale
Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent
Produced by Kristina Ceyton, Steve Hutensky, Jennifer Kent and Bruna Papandrea
Starring Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman, Ewen Leslie, Sam Claflin and Magnolia Maymuru
Set in 1825 Tasmania, or Van Diemen’s Land as it was then known, The Nightingale follows Claire, a young Irish convict who sets out into the unforgiving wilderness to get revenge on the men who raped her and killed her family. To give you an idea of how terrible these men are, actor Sam Claflin, who plays Lieutenant Hawkins in the film, said recently that this is the closest he will ever come to playing the Devil. The film’s director, Jennifer Kent, shows no restraint when it comes to her depiction of these abominable men, their racism, and the violence they inflicted during Australia’s colonial period. And why should she? This was a dark time in Australia’s history, so you should feel uncomfortable. That’s the point. Other than being a psychological nightmare narratively, Kent’s sophomore masterpiece is a staggering technical success. From Radek Ladczuk’s claustrophobic cinematography to Alex Holmes’ convincing production design and Margot Wilson’s impeccable costumes, The Nightingale is a film of very high quality – the likes of which we haven’t seen in Australia since Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country.