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2020 is set to be a massive year for Australian cinema, and we’re excited to see absolutely everything!
Before you read our list below, you should know that we’ve already seen a bunch of films due for release this year including True History of the Kelly Gang, Outback, Disclosure, Go!, Below, Measure for Measure, Cerulean Blue, Escape & Evasion, The Xrossing, Beast No More, H is for Happiness and a few others we can’t mention. While we recommend seeing every one of those films, they didn’t make this list for obvious reasons.
We’d like to thank all the filmmakers who took time to write about their film for Cinema Australia. We really appreciate it.
A note for readers new to Cinema Australia: 9 may seem like a strange number, but it has been a tradition since we first launched back in 2013. Let’s just say the tenth spot is for every other film being released this year.
Here’s to discovering something new in 2020.
9 Australian films we can’t wait to see in 2020!
I Am Woman
Directed by Unjoo Moon
Written by Emma Jensen
Produced by Unjoo Moon and Rosemary Blight
Starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Danielle Macdonald, Evan Peters and Chris Parnell
What it’s about: This uplifting biopic tells the story of Helen Reddy, the fiercely ambitious Australian singer behind the 1971 megahit anthem that became the rallying cry of the women’s liberation movement.
Why we’re excited: Nothing gets us more excited than an Australian filmmaker’s feature film debut and there are six of them on this list including I Am Woman by Unjoo Moon whose last film was 2012 documentary, The Zen of Bennett. Australian cinema isn’t well-known for quality biopics (we’re looking at you Channel 7), but, going by the trailer, Moon, her crew and lead actor Tilda Cobham-Hervey look to have captured singer, actress and activist Helen Reddy with deserving heart and sole.
Director Unjoo Moon told Cinema Australia: “As a young girl growing up on the north shore in Sydney, Australia one of my strongest memories is when I am Woman would come on the radio and how hearing Helen Reddy sing would instantly transform my mother and her friends. Suddenly they were no longer just housewives in the suburbs but they would roll down the windows of their volvos, let down their hair in the breeze and sing loud and proud “I am strong, I am invincible”. I was too young to fully understand at the time what huge changes were happening for women and what feminism meant but by the time I would meet Helen in Los Angeles many years later when I was myself a mother I knew that she had played an important part in a critical time for women. From the moment I started developing this film so many people have told me how much Helen has touched their lives through her music, with her voice and her strength as a woman in entertainment. And now in screening the film in many different countries I’ve had the incredible experience of so many, many women coming to tell me how much her story has touched them and even if they didn’t know Helen’s music, it’s now being embraced all over again in playlists from Korea to India and back to Australia. Finding the right actor to play Helen took a while but I knew from the moment I met her that Tilda Cobham Hervey would be an extrordinary Helen (and that the wonderful Danielle Macdonald was Lillian Roxon and that the incredible Evan Peters would be Jeff Wald). All three of them bought such passion and dedication and were fantastic partners in telling this story. Tilda rehearsed for almost 6 weeks and she sang to me every day. She totally immersed herself in every way. When the real Jeff Wald (Helen’s ex-husband) finally saw the film he told me that at times he thought he was actually watching Helen! I loved shooting this film and would wake up really excited every day. It was just thrilling to watch this story come alive.”
I Am Woman is in cinemas May 21, 2020
Moon Rock for Monday
Written and Directed by Kurt Martin
Produced by Jim Robison
Starring Ashlyn Louden-Gamble, George Pullar, Jessica Napier, Aaron Jeffrey, David Field, Nicholas Hope, Alan Dukes and Bonnie Ferguson
What it’s about: Sydney, 1999. After an unlikely encounter at a train station, a young terminally ill girl befriends a wanted fugitive and they embark on a road trip to visit a moon rock that the girl believes will heal her.
Why we’re excited: Cinema Australia was given an early look at a rough cut of the trailer for Moon Rock for Monday, and going by those two minutes of footage the film is set to be the feel-good Australian film of the year. Young actors Ashlyn Louden-Gamble and George Pullar have the looks of genuine movie stars and they have great chemistry in the trailer. Have tissues ready.
Director Kurt Martin told Cinema Australia: “Moon Rock for Monday is a coming of age, road trip adventure film, that explores Australia through the eyes of a 10-year-old. It was important to capture the quirkiness of the Aussie culture with larger than life characters and landscapes. I’m so proud of the passionate cast and crew who bled to give this film heart. We battled through rain, hail and sunshine to deliver a heartwarming story that I still can’t believe we made. Ashlyn, who plays the role of Monday, has so much heart and really gave the character a spark. George Pullar gave everything in his role of Tyler – he really is a movie star. Finally to Jim, my producer who backed this film from the start and assisted with investment raising and casting, I am just grateful to have worked with such an amazing team.”
The Drover’s Wife: The Legend Of Molly Johnson
Written and Directed by Leah Purcell
Produced by Greer Simpkin, Bain Stewart and David Jowsey
Starring Leah Purcell, Rob Collins, Jessica De Gouw, Sam Reid, Benedict Hardie and Harry Greenwood
What it’s about: In the Snowy Mountains, Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned. A searing reimagining of Leah Purcell’s play and Henry Lawson’s classic short story.
Why we’re excited: Leah Purcell’s passion, enthusiasm and excitement for The Drover’s Wife is infectious and her big screen reinvention of Henry Lawson’s short story is one of the most anticipated directorial debuts in recent memory. If you need more reason to get excited about The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson read Purcell’s comments below. And if they don’t move you, are you even human?
Director Leah Purcell told Cinema Australia: “The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson is my first feature film as a director. It’s a film I also wrote, starred in and produced. It was shot entirely on location in the Snowy Mountains and The Monaro Plains in NSW. It was ambitious beyond belief. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! I had an amazing Australian cast, crew and production team that enabled me to bring this dream, my dream to fruition. Making this film will be considered a highlight in my career and life. I took an Iconic story that my mother used to read to me as a small child, written by arguably Australia’s greatest storyteller, Henry Lawson and added a twist and reimagined it into a contemporary Australian tale of our frontier past. On many levels and for many good reasons I feel this film will resonate with a wide, diverse national and international audience. As the writer I wanted to make sure my audience connected with my characters and came on this multiple narrative journey. In this film I give a nod to the truth of our country’s past. As the writer and director I also took the opportunity to show-off parts of our beautiful landscape that has rarely been seen in the cinema. My intention was to also bring this bloody great yarn to the screen with a black sting in its tail in the most cinematic way possible with beautiful performances, incredible production values and a great score. As one of the producers, I believe we have delivered what we set out to do. As an actor I thought what a privilege the role of Molly Johnson, the Drover’s Wife was. When we sat down to watch a teaser clip that was created for our wrap party… there was silence in the room. We all wiped the tears from our eyes and said, “Wow, that’s our film. This is something special.” A gift from me to you.”
Written and Directed by Ivan Sen
Produced by David Jowsey, Angela Littlejohn, Greer Simpkin
Starring Ryan Kwanten, Hugo Weaving and Jillian Nguyen
What it’s about: In an uncharted future, two hardened souls meet and confront each other with the things they have done and what they have become.
Why we’re excited: C’mon. It’s Ivan Sen doing sci-fi – his second since Dreamland back in 2009. Sen was one of the first filmmakers we interviewed when we launched Cinema Australia back in 2013 when he was touring Mystery Road. It was then when Sen told us, “The next one is a sci-fi film. An action romance”. Instead, Sen’s followup was Mystery Road sequel Goldstone. It’s been a long wait, but the hype is still real.
Director Ivan Sen told Cinema Australia: “Loveland has been such a long and special journey. It’s been a part of my life for so long and I will miss it dearly. How we evolve with love in a competitive future world, may determine how we will survive and make decisions that will effect us all.”
Directed by Shannon Murphy
Written by Rita Kalnejais
Produced by Alex White
Starring Eliza Scanlan, Toby Wallace, Emily Barclay, Eugene Gilfedder, Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn
What it’s about: When seriously ill teenager Milla falls madly in love with smalltime drug dealer Moses, it’s her parents’ worst nightmare. But as Milla’s first brush with love brings her a new lust for life, things get messy and traditional morals go out the window. Milla soon shows everyone in her orbit – her parents, Moses, a sensitive music teacher, a budding child violinist, and a disarmingly honest pregnant neighbour – how to live like you have nothing to lose. What might have been a disaster for the Finlay family instead leads to letting go and finding grace in the glorious chaos of life. Babyteeth joyously explores how good it is not to be dead and how far we will go for love.
Why we’re excited: Shannon Murphy went straight from Babyteeth to Killing Eve, directing two episodes of the second series of the worldwide hit series. Babyteeth certainly impressed someone high-up which has us excited for her debut feature film. Toby Wallace is arguably Australia’s best male actor having recently impressed in dramas like Acute Misfortune, Boys in the Trees and the Romper Stomper mini-series. We’re confident he’s turned it on again here.
Producer Alex White told Cinema Australia: “Babyteeth is the debut feature for our team – writer Rita Kalnejais, director Shannon Murphy and myself as producer. We were extremely fortunate to have Jan Chapman as our executive producer who provided unlimited support and an incredible cast and crew who all came onboard with a huge passion and dedication for the project. We were so thrilled to be able to premiere the film In Competition at the Venice Film Festival late last year. It was an experience we will never forget and we look forward to sharing the film with Australian audiences later this year.”
Never Too Late
Directed by Mark Lamprell
Written by Luke Preston
Produced by Antony I. Ginnane and David Lightfoot
Starring James Cromwell, Dennis Waterman, Shane Jacobson, Jackie Weaver, Jack Thompson and Roy Billing
What it’s about: It has been a long time since Caine, Bronson, Angus and Wendell, AKA, ‘The Chain Breakers,’ escaped the torturous Vietnamese POW camp. They now find themselves sharing a new prison, The Hogan Hills Retirement Home for Returned Veterans. Each of the boys has an unrealised dream they want to achieve. So they band together to devise a plan to escape this new hell. But the rules of engagement have changed, in fact, they can’t even remember what they were and that’s half the problem. Never Too Late is a cross between Grumpy Old Men and The Great Escape, about four mates reconciling after years apart to teach each other that it’s never too late to chase your dreams.
Why we’re excited: 2019 saw some genuine comedy gold with a handful of laugh-out-loud releases included Standing Up For Sunny, Me and My Left Brain and H is for Happiness, proving that Australian cinema still has it what it takes to tickle our funny bones. The synopsis for Mark Lamprell’s Never Too Late reads like it’s ready to deliver the laughs, and with a veteran cast like the one this film boasts, we’re expecting to be rolling in the aisles.
Director Mark Lamprell told Cinema Australia:“What a joy it was to make Never Too Late and what privilege it was to work with such a stellar cast: James Cromwell, Jack Thompson, Dennis Waterman, Roy Billing and the glorious Jacki Weaver. It wasn’t always plain sailing. We had 20 days to shoot what was essentially a 30 day script but these amazing actors and our extraordinary crew pulled together like a tight-knit family. It was a case of ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. It wasn’t all grim, though; we had a lot of fun too. I would often hear peals of laughter off set when we were setting up and discover our actors gathered together telling war stories from their illustrious careers. Jack, Roy, Dennis, Jamie and Jacki enjoyed each other immensely and one of the many great things about this movie is that you can see and delight in their special camaraderie on screen. Our story is about four ex-Vietnam vets who were famous back in the day for a daring breakout from a North Vietnamese prison. Fifty years later they find themselves in the same nursing home together and decide to stage another breakout. The movie is about the second breakout. There’s also a significant romantic thread, with Jacki Weaver’s Norma and Jamie Cromwell’s Bronson reigniting a love affair that began a lifetime ago. The tone moves from serious to comic, lighthearted, even whacky sometimes, but the themes are substantial, examining issues of ageing, ageism, disempowerment and invisibility. When we first meet them, each of our veterans is down on his luck in one way or another. They may be alone, lonely, and no longer of use but the central edict of this story is It’s never too late and that is exactly what this funny, moving movie proves. I’m very excited about our upcoming release and – having done a number of test screenings during the editing process – feel very confident that Never Too Late will find an audience who will love it as much as we do.”
Directed by Robert Connolly
Written by Harry Cripps and Robert Connolly
Produced by Bruna Papandrea, Jodi Matterson, Steve Hutensky
Starring Eric Bana, Genevieve O’Reily, Keir O’Donnell, John Polson, Julia Blake, Bruce Spence, Mat Nable and Eddie Baroo
What it’s about: After an absence of twenty years, Aaron Falk returns to his drought-stricken hometown to investigate an apparent murder-suicide committed by his childhood friend, Luke Hadler. But when Aaron’s investigation opens a decades old wound – the unsolved death of 16-year-old Ellie Deacon – Aaron must struggle to prove not only Luke’s innocence but his own.
Why we’re excited: It’s hard to believe The Dry will be Eric Bana’s first Australian film role since he voiced Damien Popodopolous in Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max back in 2009. We know Bana and The Dry director Robert Connolly are close friends which makes their big screen pairing a dream come true for any Australian cinephile. If you remember the national tour for The Turning you’ll know no one puts on event-style cinema quite like Robert Connolly. No pressure, Robert, but we’re expecting fireworks.
Director Robert Connolly told Cinema Australia: “Making The Dry has been such an exciting journey, a chance to work again with my close friend Eric Bana and the wonderful team at Made Up Stories, a gift in my career to direct an Australian detective thriller on such a large scale. Jane Harper’s novel has such a wonderful array of characters, a page turner of a read that entwines the landscape of the past and present in regional Australia in such an evocative way. Having grown up in the bush, it has been a highlight in my career to work on an Australian story with an epic cinematic scale, and we’re all excited to collaborate with Roadshow once again to bring this film to an Australian audience in 2020.”
I Met a Girl
Directed by Luke Eve
Written by Glen Dolman
Produced by Adam Dolman
Starring Brenton Thwaites, Joel Jackson, Lily Sullivan, Zahra Newman and Peter Rowsthorn
What it’s about: An aspiring musician, struggling with schizophrenia, falls for a mysterious woman who may be all in his head. When she suddenly vanishes, he takes off on a cross-country journey to find her, forcing his long-suffering brother to try to rescue him.
Why we’re excited: Parts of I Met a Girl were shot near our offices in Fremantle, Western Australia, so we may be a little biased when it comes to this one. This may seem a little far off for reasons to be excited by this particular film, but we reckon we don’t see enough of Peter Rowsthorn in Australian movies. It’s unknown how big his role is here, but the guy is a bona fide comedian, so laughs are pretty much guaranteed. Sullivan and Thwaites are a dreamy pairing.
Director Luke Eve told Cinema Australia: “I Met A Girl is the film of my dreams. It deals with subject matter that is both deeply personal and universal. And as a hopeless romantic I can’t help but love the journey our hero goes on. Shooting an epic love story across multiple states wasn’t easy but there wasn’t a single moment I didn’t relish in bringing this wonderful story to life. I’m so proud of both the film and the team we assembled to make it together and I can’t wait to share it with Aussie audiences.”
Directed by Justin McMillan
Written by Marc Furmie and Eddie Baroo
Produced by Ashley McLeod
Starring Lisa Kay, Martin Sacks and Genevieve Lemon
What it’s about: In her search for answers, Hanna moves in to a cottage on a sugar cane farm. Her neighbours John and Ellenor Drake (Martin Sacks and Genevieve Lemon), live in the neighbouring farmhouse and own all of the surrounding sugar cane fields. Sweet River is a film about two women from completely different worlds, who are learning to deal with the grief caused by the loss of their children. Hanna’s son Joey was abducted by a serial killer and is presumed dead, and Ellenor’s daughter lost her life in a tragic bus crash along with several other local children. As Hanna spends more time in the town investigating her son’s disappearance, and with some unexplained encounters with the supernatural after dark, it becomes clear that no one wants her here. The town is intent on protecting its secrets and a wound that will not heal.
Why we’re excited: Simply put, Eddie Baroo. Sweet River is chock-a-block with fresh and exciting Australian talent but Eddie Baroo is by far one of the most exciting identities working in the industry today – he’s also a bloody top bloke who gives the best hugs. Here Baroo has partnered with Marc Furmie who wrote and directed the under appreciated 2015 sci-fi drama, Terminus.
Producer Ashley McLeod told Cinema Australia: “When Justin presented me with the story of Sweet River, I was struck with the raw emotion of the story. The fear every parent holds of losing one of their children, really resonated with me. We have assembled an experienced film crew with top notch credentials, and I’m excited about what Justin, our DOP Tim Tregoning and editor Simon Njoo will bring to the project.”
Keep an eye on http://www.cinemaaustralia.com.au throughout the year for news regarding each of the above films.