9 Australian films we can’t wait to see in 2021

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It’s that time of the year when we share with our readers nine of the most exciting and anticipated upcoming Australian films set to release this year. Each film includes a paragraph written exclusively for Cinema Australia by the filmmaker.

Last year, we included three films on our list that were rescheduled or delayed including The Drover’s Wife: The Legend Of Molly Johnson, Loveland, and I Met a Girl so keep an eye out for those film either on the festival circuit, in the cinema, or via VOD later in the year.

We’d like to thank all the filmmakers who took time to write about their film for Cinema Australia. We really appreciate it.

9 Australian films we can’t wait to see in 2021!

Dreams of Paper & Ink

Neal Bosanquet and William Servinis in Dreams of Paper & Ink.

Written, Directed and Produced by Glenn Triggs
William Servinis, Neal Bosanquet, Marlene Magee, Emily Rok, Christopher Jordan, Sorcha Johnson, Anisa Mahama and Tamara Lee Bailey

What it’s about: Featuring no-dialogue, Dreams of Paper & Ink follows an elderly novelist Wade, who re-visits the crossroads of his first and second love through imagination and a typewriter.

Why we’re excited: Glenn Triggs is one of Australia’s most exciting independent filmmakers. He’s consistent too, having produced a string of acclaimed indie gems like Cinemaphobia, 41 and found footage horror, Apocalyptic (also known as Apocalypse Cult). The Comet Kids, Triggs’ love letter to films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Goonies, proved Triggs has a big future ahead of him. A dialogue-free film like Dreams of Paper & Ink might not appeal to everyone, but it’s in the best hands with Triggs at the helm.

Director Glenn Triggs told Cinema Australia:

Dreams of Paper & Ink came very close to not being made at all. 

After finishing The Comet Kids and then having three kids of my own, my energy was not in high reserves. But I had that itch to make something, and that grew stronger every day. Eventually I had to scratch it. The real crux of the project was the decision to have no dialogue in the film – at all. I found this far more interesting than it was challenging. Words in the script had always gotten in the way of the real emotions I was trying to tell – and once I had made the choice – it put a smile on my face.

Then it all came down to casting. There were two unknown actors that I was very interested in having in the film. Tamara Lee Bailey and Neal Bosanquet – and if they said no – I was happy to walk away from the project (and I almost did). That’s how much I wanted them. The entire film balanced on their decisions over the period of a few days. Luckily they both jumped at it!

The challenge was then to present two relationships in the film – Your first and second love, and how real we could make that seem – and the heartbreak and elevation and of going from one to the other. I’m super proud of our little film and think audiences will really appreciate this fascinating and imaginative angle on the story.

Other Dreams of Paper & Ink Coverage: Read our interview with director Glenn Triggs here.

A release date is yet to be announced.

Penguin Bloom

Jacki Weaver and Naomi Watts in Penguin Bloom.

Directed by Glendyn Ivin
Written by Harry Cripps and Shaun Grant
Produced by Emma Cooper, Steve Hutensky, Bruna Papandrea and Naomi Watts
Starring Naomi Watts, Andrew Lincoln, Jacki Weaver, Rachel House, Griffin Murray-Johnston, Felix Cameron and Abe Clifford-Barr

What it’s about: A family takes in an injured Magpie that makes a profound difference in their lives.

Why we’re excited: As we were set to publish this feature article we were given the opportunity to see Penguin Bloom a few days before its release. We still want to include it here out of respect for director Glendyn Irvin who took the time to write for Cinema Australia about his film. Plus, we want to emphasise how much we want our readers to go and see this brilliant film. You can read our full Penguin Bloom review here.

What director Glendyn Irvin told Cinema Australia:

The first time I read the book Penguin Bloom, its simplicity and beauty immediately spoke to me. I love the way the book didn’t shy away from the realities of the effect a spinal injury can have on the injured person and the family and friends around them.

I was also drawn to the powerful sense of nature and the spirit of generosity that ran through the story. I had been dreaming of making a film that wasn’t as dark as the work I had been doing, and Penguin Bloom seemed like the perfect fit.

The way a random little bird came into a broken family and healed them is quite extraordinary, and it has been an honour to get to know the Blooms and bring their story to the big screen.

I was fortunate to make this film with old and new friends, and I hope the film moves audiences in the same way the book and the Blooms story has resonated with readers worldwide.”

Penguin Bloom is in cinemas from January 21.

Occupation: Rainfall

Mark Coles Smith as Captain Wessex in Occupation: Rainfall.

Written and Directed by Luke Sparke
Produced by Carly Imrie and Carmel Imrie
Starring Temuera Morrison, Jason Isaacs, Daniel Gillies, Ken Jeong, Dan Ewing, Lawrence Makoare, Jet Tranter, Dena Kaplan, Vince Colosimo, Mark Coles Smith, Izzy Stevens and Erin Connor

What it’s about: Two years into an intergalactic invasion of earth, survivors in Sydney, Australia, fight back in a desperate ground war. As casualties mount by the day, the resistance and their unexpected allies, uncover a plot that could see the war come to a decisive end. With the Alien invaders hell-bent on making earth their new home, the race is on to save mankind.

Why we’re excited: Big-budget Australian sci-fi films are few and far between. We’re so used to seeing aliens invade America on the big screen, so we know we’ll get a real buzz out of seeing one take place on our own soil. The cast is epic too with the likes of Jason Isaacs, Ken Jeong, Vince Colosimo and Mark Coles Smith joining returning cast members Dan Ewing, Izzy Stevens and others. Also, we get to see Temuera Morrison kick more intergalactic ass following his return as Boba Fett in The Mandalorian.

Director Luke Sparke told Cinema Australia:

Australia doesn’t have anything like Rainfall. It’s never attempted something like it: A big, sprawling action sci/fi akin to American summer blockbusters.

We’ve never had a Star Wars or a Transformers to call our own. I hope this will be it. I hope Australian teens, Australian sci/fi fans and anyone that just likes fun action rides embrace the film, because it would be amazing to have more films like this, with our own Aussie sensibilities and accents.

It’s been such a massive undertaking from everyone that stood by me and the producers to get this thing done. I think we knowingly went headlong into every obstacle we could think of: Destroyed cities, snow, deserts, mountains, hidden bases, how to blend practical effects with VFX, sword fights, speeder chases, Alien armies, over 1,500 vfx shots and so much more. Then we had to go up against so many more unforeseen obstacles just to get it done.

To get through all of that is a testament to the small team that was spearheading this. Big hats off to the Producers Carly and Carmel Imrie, Alex Becconsall, Zac Garred for having such drive, and crew like the phenomenal Wade Muller who just made the main shoot that much easier under stressful conditions.

The freakin’ amazing score from Freddie W and the ear melting sounds from Chris Goodes. From the awesome cast to the amazing VFX artists we got on board, I really can’t speak enough about what a massive undertaking this is for a 100% independent film to come come out of Australia.

I wish we were making a documentary of the making of – It would be better than Hearts of Darkness!

I’ve lived with Rainfall everyday for over three years by the time it’s released, without thinking of anything else, and the team has poured so much effort and passion into this thing, I can’t wait till it’s launched to an unsuspecting audience.

Occupation: Rainfall is in cinemas January 28.


Caleb Landry Jones (pictured here in Get Out) will play Martin Bryant in Nitram.

Directed by Justin Kurzel
Written by Shaun Grant
Produced by Nick Batzias and Virginia Whitwell
Starring Caleb Landry Jones, Judy Davis, Essie Davis and Anthony LaPaglia

What it’s about:
Nitram is a scripted feature film that looks at the events leading up to one of the darkest chapters in Australian history – the Port Arthur massacre – in an attempt to understand why and how this atrocity occurred.

Why we’re excited interested: Not much is known about Nitram, and the team at Stan are keeping all details about their Stan Original top secret. Cinema Australia hit a nerve with our readers when we questioned the relevance of the film, but that didn’t mean we weren’t intrigued. We know Justin Kurzel and Shaun Grant are master filmmakers, we just hope they treat the material with the sensitivity it deserves. This one is sure to cause more controversy when it’s released at Melbourne International Film Festival this year.

Nitram will have its world premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival mid year before dropping on Stan. 


Zac Efron in Gold.

Directed by Anthony Hayes
Written by Anthony Hayes and Polly Smyth
Produced by John Schwarz and Michael Schwarz
Starring Zac Efron, Susie Porter and Anthony Hayes

What it’s about: When two men discover the biggest gold nugget ever found they must find a way to excavate it.

Why we’re excited: Anthony Hayes might not be a household name, but he’s one of the hardest working and highly-respected actors in Australia. And he can hold his own opposite the likes of Joel Egerton, Guy Pearce and David Wenham too, with memorable performances in films like Animal Kingdom, The Rover and The Boys – his first feature film. Hayes wrote Gold with his wife, Polly Smyth, who has worked in the costume and wardrobe department on films like Knowing, Killer Elite and Rogue. With over 35 years of experience in the screen industry, and two feature films as director (Ten Empty and New Skin) already under his belt, we’re excited to see what Hayes can unearth with Gold.

Director Anthony Hayes told Cinema Australia:

Gold was hands down the toughest shoot I have been part of in my 35 year career.

For a survival thriller, we inadvertently found ourselves surviving the elements that were at times ridiculously grinding and brutal. We endured four sand storms, a heat wave where the ground temperature reached 70 degrees Celsius, melting prosthetics and one day the sand was so thick we only managed to get eight seconds of useable footage.

It also rained – in the middle of the desert.

On the positive side, a sandstorm was scripted into the movie and we made a call to go with it, resulting in a day of chaotic exhilarating madness. The results on the screen are incredible. The camaraderie and the passion each and every member of the cast and crew put into Gold was above and beyond what I imagined possible, it never wavered. It left me feeling so emotional and grateful for the extraordinary experience.

Gold is a film about greed, about how the human soul is susceptible to corruption at the promise of riches. It is a cautionary tale about where we are and where we are headed as a society if we don’t refocus and recalibrate what is really important in life. It’s part allegory, part survival thriller.

Zac Efron rolled around in that dust bowl for weeks, gave his all. His performance is outstanding and his commitment was beyond what one comes to expect from any actor, least of all an A-list actor. The early reaction to the film from buyers has been incredible. We have fantastic production partners in Australia and internationally.

Gold will screen as a Stan Original in Australia after an Aussie theatrical run through Madman Films. I can’t wait for everyone in my home country and all around the world to see it so the cast and crew’s work and passion can be truly acknowledged and appreciated.

A release date for Gold is yet to be confirmed.

Lone Wolf

Hugo Weaving in Lone Wolf.

Written and Directed by Jonathan Ogilvie
Produced by Mat Govoni and Adam White
Starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Hugo Weaving, Josh McConville, Chris Bunton, Diana Glenn, Marlon Williams, Eddie Baroo and Stephen Curry

What it’s about: Set in contemporary Melbourne, Lone Wolf tells the story of Winnie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), a young woman who runs a struggling political bookshop with her boyfriend Conrad (Josh McConville) and takes care of her disabled brother, Stevie (Chris Bunton). But Winnie’s efforts to hold everything together get thwarted when Conrad becomes entangled in an act of terrorism.

Why we’re excited: Lone Wolf boasts an incredible cast of established talent like Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Hugo Weaving and Josh McConville, but none are more exciting right now than the always impressive, Chris Bunton – one of Cinema Australia’s favourite actors. This is the third time Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel, The Secret Agent, has been adapted for the big screen – Alfred Hitchcock’s Sabotage and Christopher Hampton’s The Secret Agent starring Bob Hoskins, Patricia Arquette, Gérard Depardieu and Christian Bale came before it. We can’t wait to see Jonathan Ogilvie’s Australian take.

What director Jonathan Ogilvie told Cinema Australia: 

Lone Wolf is what I call a cineveillant film – the result of me contemplating the possibly of telling a dramatic narrative wholly through surveillance footage and a friend returning to me (believe it or not!) an edition of Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel, The Secret Agent, with the remark that it would make a great film.

As a classic “Vic Lit” tragedy, the novel presented challenges. Some were solved by re-watching Hitchcock’s 1936 adaptation, Sabotage, but the major change derived from the key line of Hannah Gadsby’s widely acclaimed one-woman show, Nanette: “There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself”. Winnie is Lone Wolf’s defiant protagonist, sublimely played by Tilda Cobham Hervey. 

We shot Lone Wolf during a bitter Melbourne winter and captured a distinct, clandestine impression of the city. Our production was joyfully mean and lean. It could not have been achieved without the unbridled enthusiasm of the producers, the crew and a brilliant cast led by that sui generis gentleman, Hugo Weaving. 

I’m really looking forward to presenting Lone Wolf to an Australian audience. As a “howdunnit” thriller I’m hoping to hook them with the story, the way it is told and the wider implications of the way we live now – under surveillance. 

A release date for Lone Wolf is yet to be confirmed.

A Guide to Dating at the End of the World

Directed by Samuel Gay
Written by Samuel Gay and Stewart Klein
Produced by Raquelle David, David Jerome Cassidy, Susan Cassidy and Samuel Gay
Starring Kerith Atkinson, Tony Brockman, Jacki Mison, Christopher Sommers, Sarah Kennedy, Julie Cotterell and Norman Doyle

What it’s about: Sometimes all it takes is an apocalyptic catastrophe to help find your true love. After their first date, Alex declares she would not go out with John even if he were the last man on Earth. The next day she wakes to find he is exactly that… the last freakin’ man left on earth! Yikes! With everyone gone they have time to get to know each other and all is going well. Then suddenly they meet Wendy. She is the smarter and prettier ‘other woman’ – and she has a plan to bring everyone back. Will Wendy come between Alex and John as she tries to save the world? Not if Alex and her trusty Epilady have anything to do with it.

Why we’re excited: A Guide to Dating at the End of the World is Samuel Gay’s first feature film as director which is always exciting. It’s also the only comedy on our list, and there’s nothing better than a good laugh at the movies. The short teaser trailer has a hint of Infinite Man about it too – strange, solitary and a bucket load of fun.

What director Samuel Gay told Cinema Australia:

When Stewart Klein and I started writing A Guide to Dating at the End of the World, sci-fi post-apocalyptic rom-com films were still quite unique and I thought this was the perfect genre for a low budget debut feature.

Now, nearly ten years later, there are quite a few around – Fox even stole our original title for a TV series – but after some significant post-production wizardry our film is finally completed and ready to be released. It has been a bizarre and epic journey, and I am still thrilled (and relieved) to finally be able to share with audiences everywhere as to what really happened in Brisbane, on Sunday March 28th, 2010.

This sweet tale of love, hadrons and alternate realities marks a closure for all the talented and generous people who helped make it and who were so supportive along the way.

It also marks the beginning of a search for another six-word film genre to explore over the next decade.

A release date for A Guide to Dating at the End of the World is yet to be confirmed.

Friends and Strangers

Friends and Strangers. Image: https://iffr.com

Written and Directed by James Vaughan
Produced by Rebecca Lamond and Lucy Rennick
Starring Emma Diaz, Victoria Maxwell and Fergus Wilson

What it’s about: Friends and Strangers explores displacement, disconnection and ennui in contemporary Australia through the eyes of two upper-middle class millennials.

Why we’re excited: James Vaughan has ties to some of Australia’s most exciting directing talents of the last few years. He wrote There Is No Such Thing as a Jellyfish with Strange Colours director Alena Lodkina, and edited Ted Wilson’s acclaimed debut, Under the Cover of Cloud. James’ first short film as director, You Like It, I Love It, was screened in competition at the Berlinale, Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival, where he received the Swinburne Award for Emerging Australian Filmmaker and ATOM award for Best Experimental Film. Having already been selected for the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Friends and Strangers marks the arrival of a new Australian directing talent to keep an eye on.

What director James James Vaughan told Cinema Australia:

Friends and Strangers is a film I’ve been making for more than four years.

As I write this, we are in the final days of the sound mix, and a week from now the film will have been sent to Europe for its first screening.

It is a peculiar moment for me personally, but perhaps also the ideal moment to reflect on the project. Film is an exhibition of appearances, and here I set out to make something that in a small way sets the world of appearances against itself.

What is the relationship between the world as it appears and the world as it is? My favourite films are the ones that consciously interrogate this puzzle. The relationship between the viewer and the characters in this film is unsteady, and characters’ relationship between themselves and the world of the film is equally so.

It was important to me for this not to be just a question of plot and character, but equally of staging, framing and the interplay of aural, visual and temporal subjectivities. I also wanted to explore this in a low-key way, a way that made the film accessible as a comedy, and as a drama, and as a piece of cultural commentary.

I suppose I will find out in a few weeks if any of this was successful, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m equally excited to share this with Australian audiences later this year, as these are the people this film is ultimately about and for. For now, back to the sound mix.

A release date for Friends and Strangers is yet to be confirmed.


Lauren Grimson in Water Horse.

Written and Directed by Jennifer Van Gessel
Produced by Nita Naris and Jennifer Van Gessel
Starring Lauren Grimson, Dean Kyrwood, Jessica Tovey, Socratis Otto and Rob Flanagan

What it’s about: Water Horse follows a paranormal investigator who links a bizarre string of seemingly unrelated events to the disappearance of her mother.

Why we’re excited: We’ve been keeping a close eye on Jennifer Van Gessel’s career for a few years now and we couldn’t be more excited for her directorial debut, Water Horse. Van Gessel has written and produced a string of films with strong female leads including Nancy in Hell with Bianca Bradey and Beast No More starring Jessica Tovey. Up-and-coming acting talents Lauren Grimson and Dean Kyrwood as leads also excites with both actors having recently worked with acclaimed Australian filmmaker Alex Proyas.

What director Jennifer Van Gessel told Cinema Australia:

Water Horse is the story of Dianne Wilson, a woman who lost her mother in mysterious circumstances at a young age. She’s never been able to move on and is still searching for closure. Her investigation has led her to believe the disappearance is of a paranormal nature. Dianne teams up with wannabe actor Osmond Shaw when another strange incident links them together. Oz is sucked into Dianne’s world and gets lost in the quest for truth also.

It’s my first time directing a fictional story; it’s in a documentary-like format so I’ve felt pretty comfortable. The usual low budget filmmaking challenges have been rough, then there were the fires and Covid19. All in all I’m proud of the team and what we’ve achieved with such a disjointed timeline.

I also wrote the script but the majority has been ad-libbed to create a genuine feel. The actors have really embraced that approach. It has been fun watching them thrive and grow. I’ve been lucky to have actress Lauren Grimson as lead. She’s incredible. Her and Dean Kyrwood have a chemistry that’s really complimented the need for authenticity. Both of them have brought a lot to the film. Experienced supporting cast like Jessica Tovey and Socratis Otto have also elevated scenes, with a bunch of up and comers making a mark too.

Currently we’re in post production with Dan Berghofer on the edit. He loves this type of film, he even has a Blair Witch Project tattoo. Producers Nita Naris and Janine van Gessell have been a constant support. With all the ups and downs this year it’s meant the world to have a team like this. Rachele Wiggins who came in as producer for post-production on Beast No More is back here for post also, so you know it’s in good hands.

We have one week of pick-ups in January and should have the film delivered to the distributor by March. I’m sure the audience will be drawn to the genuine characters and their journey. Anyone who has lost someone knows the importance of closure; this need is what drives the film. There’s some scary stuff too of course and the supernatural element, but it’s all grounded in the hunt for the truth, no matter how scary that truth may be.

A release date for Water Horse is yet to be confirmed.

Keep an eye on http://www.cinemaaustralia.com.au for all the latest news, reviews, features and interviews. Here’s to the future of Australian cinema. 

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