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Newsfront (1978)


In Australia in the late 1940s, before the coming of television, Len Maguire (Bill Hunter) and his young sidekick Chris (Chris Haywood) cover the big news stories for the Cinetone newsreel company. An old-school cameraman, Len is loyal to the company, the Australian Labor party and the Catholic church, but times are changing. He struggles to maintain his principles in turbulent times.

Curator’s notes

Newsfront is a classic, a contender for the best film ever made in Australia. It documents a period of intense social and political turmoil, personalising the propaganda wars of the late 1940s, the rise of Robert Menzies and a politicised Catholic church, and the beginnings of feminism in the workplace – all with extensive use of real newsreels.

The film’s most original technique is the way it integrates new and old footage, shifting effortlessly between black-and-white and colour, sometimes in the same scene. This gives the film great immediacy, a sense that history is alive in the present.

Off-screen, the production is famous for behind-the-scenes arguments between writer Bob Ellis, writer–director Phillip Noyce and producer David Elfick. After they made extensive cuts, Ellis removed his name from the credits, a decision he later regretted. A restored DVD release now includes commentary from all three, in which Ellis says he now recognises it as amongst the best work he has done.