Australian film and television chronology
In 2000, the National Film and Sound Archive joined forces with Atlab Australia and Kodak (Australasia) to restore 50 colour feature films. Over a five-year period the project produced high quality new prints of films including They’re a Weird Mob (1966), The Night the Prowler (1978), My Brilliant Career (1979) and Sweetie (1989). Many of the films in the the Kodak/Atlab Collection have been screened to great public interest at local film festivals.
A record 13 Australians were nominated for Academy Awards for films made in 2001. Moulin Rouge! was nominated in eight categories and won awards for Best Art Direction (Catherine Martin) and Best Costume Design (Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie). The third Australian winner on Oscar night was Andrew Lesnie, who won Best Cinematography for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
The Federal Government’s Refundable Film Tax Offset was introduced. The aim of the offset was to attract large-budget international film and television productions to Australia. The scheme offers a tax incentive for film production companies by providing a benefit worth 12.5 per cent of a film’s qualifying Australian production expenditure. This benefit goes to the film production company through the company’s tax return. The offset amount is applied against Australian tax liabilities accrued in the production of the film, with any excess refunded.
2001: ACMI opens
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image was opened in Melbourne. Located at Federation Square and funded by the Victorian State Government, ACMI was established as an exhibition space for cinema, television, computer games and interactive media arts.
On 5 August 2001, fugitive Australian businessman and former Seven Network owner Christopher Skase died of stomach cancer in Majorca. Skase fled Australia in 1990 and returned only briefly in 1991 prior to the collapse of his Qintex group, which had launched an unsuccessful bid to buy US movie studio MGM. Despite the efforts of successive governments to have Skase extradited from Spain to face charges, the disgraced entrepreneur successfully appealed on the grounds of a life-threatening lung condition. So notorious was Skase that television personality Andrew Denton launched a public appeal to hire a bounty hunter. Although the plan was never carried out, the idea was incorporated into the plot of the 2001 satirical comedy Let’s Get Skase (2001). When Skase took out Dominican citizenship in May 1998, Australian authorities held renewed hope of forcing his return through the extradition agreements between Australia and Dominica. This optimism proved false and, elusive to the end, Skase remained in Spain. He died two months before Let’s Get Skase was released on 18 October.
Ellis, E 1991 Skase’s Reign in Spain Turns Sour, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 May 1991.
Four Corners 1998, ABC TV, 7 September.
Gordon, J 2003, Hunt for Skase millions fruitless, The Age, 4 April 2003.
The Internet Movie Database
2002: Brian Henderson retires
After 38 years in the chair, Brian Henderson read his final Channel 9 Sydney news bulletin on 29 November 2002. New Zealand-born Henderson began reading weekend bulletins in 1957 and was appointed chief newsreader of TCN9 in 1964. He also hosted Bandstand (1958-72) and won the Gold Logie in 1968.
The Northern Territory Film Office was established in July 2003 as a unit of the Department of Community Development Sport and Cultural Affairs, within the division of Arts, Museums and Library Services. The key roles of the NTFO are to support local film, television and new media industries, attract production to the Northern Territory and promote an active screen culture.
The Adelaide International Film Festival – later renamed Adelaide Film Festival – opened with the Australian premiere of Aleksandr Rogozhkin’s The Cuckoo (2002). The biennial event included the Don Dunstan Award for outstanding contribution to the Australian film industry. Won by actor David Gulpilil in 2003, the award was presented to documentary maker Dennis O’Rourke in 2005, filmmaker Rolf de Heer in 2007 and producer Jan Chapman in 2009. Through the Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund, the Adelaide festival also invests directly in film production. Among the features, shorts and documentaries supported by AFFIF are Look Both Ways (2005), Ten Canoes (2006), Dr Plonk (2007), The Home Song Stories (2007), Samson and Delilah (2009) and My Year Without Sex (2009).
The world premiere of Ten Canoes (2006) was held at the Adelaide Festival of Arts on 19 March 2006. Directed by Rolf de Heer and co-directed by Peter Djigirr, with English narration by David Gulpilil, it was the first feature film performed entirely in Aboriginal languages. Of the many dialects spoken by cast members, Ganalbingu was dominant. A collaboration between de Heer and the people of Ramingining, Ten Canoes enjoyed substantial critical and commercial success around the world, and was officially nominated by Australia for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards. It also inspired the award-winning website, Twelve Canoes.
After being rejected by major Australian film distributors, the Swedish film As it is in Heaven (Så som i himmelen, 2004) opened at the independent Hayden Orpheum cinema at Cremorne in Sydney on 30 November 2006. It ran for 109 weeks, finishing its season on 9 April 2008. While short of the all-time record set by South Pacific (1958), which ran for more than three years in Australian cinemas, As it is in Heaven set the record for the highest gross for a foreign language film on a single screen in Australia. It amassed over $1.1 million. In an extremely rare circumstance the film continued to play theatrically after it was released on DVD (on 14 February 2008).
On 11 May 2007, the Australian Screen Directors Association changed its name to the Australian Directors Guild. The ADG represents Australian film, television and new media directors.
In August 2007, reports emerged that long-serving newsreader Mary Kostakidis had walked out on SBS. Popularly known as the 'face of SBS’, Kostakidis joined the multicultural broadcaster in an executive role in 1980 and had served as SBS World News anchor since the mid-1980s. In subsequent court action, Kostakidis filed for a breach of contract, allegedly related to a dispute with management over the direction of SBS World News and difficulties with co-host, Stan Grant. On 23 November 2007, SBS announced it had reached an 'amicable settlement’ with Kostakidis, the details of which were not disclosed.
Welch, D 2007, Kostakidis strikes 'amicable’ deal, The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 November 2007.
Australian animator Yoram Gross was honoured on 5 May 2007 by the NSW FTO for 60 years of filmmaking. Born in Krakow, Poland, in 1926, Gross emigrated in 1950 to Israel, where he made the highly-regarded experimental film Chansons sans Paroles (1958) and the award-winning biblical feature Joseph the Dreamer (1961). Gross and his wife, Sandra, settled permanently in Sydney in 1968 and established Yoram Gross Film Studios. He produced clips for the popular weekly television music program Bandstand (1958-72) and his 1971 short, To Nefertiti, won bronze at the Australian Film Awards. Since 1977 Gross has produced and directed many successful animated television series and 16 children’s feature films including Dot and the Kangaroo (1977), Around the World with Dot (1981) and Blinky Bill (1992).
In June 2007, Australia’s earliest feature film, The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), was added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. Established in 1997, the Memory of the World Register formally acknowledges works of renowned significance. Directed by Charles Tait, The Story of the Kelly Gang is believed by some historians to be the world’s first feature-length motion picture. Only 16 of the film’s 70 minutes have survived. A 31-minute presentation using this material and images from other sources was presented by the NFSA and released on DVD in 2007.
Ned Kelly Part of Memory of the World, Urban Cinefile, 21 June 2007.
2007: Bollywood Down Under
The Bollywood comedy Heyy Babyy (2007) opened in Australian cinemas on 24 August 2007. A reworking of the American comedy Three Men and a Baby (1987) – itself a remake of the French comedy 3 hommes ut un couffin (1985) – Heyy Babyy was filmed and set substantially in Sydney, with some sequences shot in Brisbane. Since the early 2000s, more than 100 Bollywood feature films, TV serials and commercials have featured sequences filmed in Australia. Features include Salaam Namaste (2005) and Chak De! India (2007).
On 13 November 2007, the first Asia Pacific Screen Awards ceremony was held on the Gold Coast. The awards are an initiative of the State Government of Queensland and aim to recognise and promote Asia-Pacific screen culture. APSA collaborates with UNESCO, broadcaster CNN International and the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. The inaugural prize for Best Feature was won by Milyang (Secret Sunshine, 2007) from South Korean director Lee Chang–dong. Tulpan (2008), from Kazakhstan and directed by Sergei Dvortsevoy, won the top prize in 2008.
In April 2007, curators at the Australian War Memorial announced the discovery of 45 seconds of 35mm film shot at Anzac Cove during the battle for control of the Gallipoli peninsula. Believed to have been filmed by British journalist Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, the brief footage was contained in a large compilation reel sold to the Memorial in 1938 for £25 and had not previously been positively identified. The footage showing supplies being unloaded is thought to date from June or July 1915 and is the only known film of Anzac Cove during the Gallipoli campaign.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 April 2007, p 5.
2008: AFI Awards turn 50
The longest-running and most prestigious Australian film and television awards ceremony marked its 50th year in 2008. The Black Balloon (2007) won the AFI Awards for Best Film and Director (Elissa Down). William McInnes won Best Actor and Monic Hendrickx Best Actress, both for Unfinished Sky (2007). Not Quite Hollywood (2008) won Best Documentary.
2008: Heath Ledger dies
On 22 January 2008 Australian actor Heath Ledger was found dead in a New York apartment, aged 28. On 6 February the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York attributed Ledger’s death to an accidental overdose of prescription medications that included painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs. Born in Perth, WA, on 4 April 1979, Ledger made his film debut in Blackrock (1997) and achieved his international breakthrough as lead character Patrick Verona in the Hollywood hit 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), a modern reworking of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Ledger was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for Brokeback Mountain (2005) and posthumously won Best Supporting Actor for playing the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008). Ledger had not completed his final film, Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), at the time of his death. In February 2008, actors Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell signed on to complete Ledger’s part, playing multiple incarnations of his character. Ledger’s Australian films include Two Hands (1999), Ned Kelly (2003) and Candy (2006).
2008: Australia – The Movie
Indisputably the most expensive film made in Australia to date, and probably the most talked-about, Baz Luhrmann's Australia (2008) was released locally on 26 November 2008. Australia attracted pre-release comment for its budget (estimated at $US130 million) and casting of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman (who replaced original leading man Russell Crowe). Australia was also linked in to a major Federal Government tourist campaign, putting added pressure on its box-office performance. Despite mixed reviews and wildly inaccurate predictions the film would flop, Australia accumulated $36.78 million at the Australian box office as of 25 February 2009, placing it second in the all-time list of Australian hits behind the $44.7 million grossed by Crocodile Dundee (1985). A major hit in many territories, Australia has grossed more than $US200 million worldwide as of March 2009.
2008: NFSA made independent
On 1 July 2008 the National Film and Sound Archive became an independent statutory authority. Previously part of the Australian Film Commission, the NFSA was granted autonomous status as part of new Federal Government initiatives that merged the Australian Film Commission, Film Finance Corporation and Film Australia into a single screen agency, Screen Australia. In addition to the collection and preservation of Australia’s recorded history, the NFSA is responsible for australianscreen, as well as the national screening programs Big Screen, a touring film festival reaching audiences in rural and remote Australia; Black Screen, providing Indigenous films to Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences; and School Screen, supplying films to Australian school students.
Following a review of film funding conducted by the Federal Government in 2007, the Australian Film Commission, Film Finance Corporation and Film Australia merged to form a single screen agency, Screen Australia. Announced on 20 February 2008 by the Hon Peter Garrett MP, Federal Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Screen Australia formally began operation on 1 July 2008. As part of its package to stimulate investment and production, Screen Australia initiated a producer rebate and an increased location rebate. 'Our film and television industry punches above its weight with award-winning productions, cast and crew. It contributes $1.5 billion a year to the economy and employs more than 50,000 people. But the industry is crying out for more private investment and strategic government support. We need to help our creative talent withstand the competition from imports, especially from the United States’, Garrett said.
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts 2008, 'New agency for Australian film makers’, Media release, 20 February 2008.
In 2008 the Australian box office notched up $946 million, surpassing the record set in 2004 by four per cent. Top 2008 grossers were The Dark Knight ($45.78 million), Mamma Mia! ($31.73 million) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($29.29 million). The strongest Australian performer was Australia with $26.91 million. Released in November, Australia grossed over $36 million by March 2009.
2008 Aussie Box Office A Record, Urban Cinefile, 15 January 2009.
Past and present Australian test cricketers including Brett Lee, Mike Hussey, Alan Border, Brad Hogg and Michael Slater appeared as themselves in the Bollywood movie Victory (2008). Directed by Ajit Pal Mangat, Victory follows Vijay Shikhawat (Harman Baweja), a middle-class hopeful selected for the Indian cricket team to tour Australia. It was released in India on 14 November 2008.
On 22 February 2009 Heath Ledger was posthumously awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) also won the 2008 AFI International Award for Best Actor and 2009 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. Only two actors, both Australian, have ever won posthumous Oscars. Peter Finch won Best Actor in 1977 for his role as TV host Howard Beale in Network (1976).
Winning posthumous acting Oscar not easy, Indy.com, 22 January 2009.