Australia: home of outlandish stereotypes, Mrs. Mac’s Meat Pies, and an impressive film industry that makes Canadians like me fairly jealous. Shamefully, Australian films tend to have a difficult time being distributed outside Australia. Of course, nobody with a DVD player has to rely on the movie theatre – here are ten quite excellent Australian films of the past decade worth watching.
Jindabyne (Dir. Ray Lawrence)
Based on a Raymond Carver short story, Jindabyne is an uncompromising drama about a group of men who discover the body of a murdered women whilst they are fishing. Rather than report the body immediately, they wait until after their fishing trip is concluded. What follows is a bitter and simmering dispute in the community over the actions of the men and the reactions of the community.
Dirty Deeds (Dir. David Caesar)
A caper film in the spirit of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Richie, Dirty Deeds concerns Australian mobster Barry Ryan (Bryan Brown), whose underworld success attracts the notice of the American Mafia. Black comedy and witty violence of the best sort ensues.
Black Water (Dir. Andrew Traucki, David Nerlich)
Rather than relying on outlandish plot devices and sci-fi inspired monsters, Black Water is built on straightforward terror and a simple premise: three people are stuck in a tree in the middle of a mangrove swamp after their boat is capsized, and a saltwater crocodile waits below. If you watch just one crocodile film in your lifetime, make it this one.
Undead (Dir. Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig)
An early entry into the zombie-comedy trend, Undead has enough ridiculous violence and strange twists to appeal to the casual fan. Featuring an alien conspiracy theorist, a beauty pageant winner, and enough guns to overthrow a small country, it will also please the hardcore zombie-hunter.
Kokoda (Dir. Alister Grierson)
A gusty little war film, Kokoda does what every good war film should do: it gets inside the heads of its main characters and does not paint its characters as heroes, but as human beings. Set in New Guinea in WWII, it follows Australian infantrymen, running ragged from disease and siege, as they attempt to fend off the Japanese.
Ten Canoes (Dir. Rolf de Heer)
Notable as the first feature film primarily in an Indigenous Australian language, Ten Canoes is about the dangerous consequences of jealousy. Set prior to European contact and narrated by the legendary actor David Gulpilil, Ten Canoes is beautify shot and its uniqueness is much appreciated in a medium with a tendency to recycle ideas.
Rabbit-Proof Fence (Dir. Phillip Noyce)
Based on a true story, Rabbit-Proof Fence is about two Aboriginal sisters who escape from an Aboriginal school. In order to return to their mother, they must travel across Western Australia and avoid a tracker who is trying to capture them.
Balibo (Dir. Robert Connolly)
Another film based on a true story, Balibo stars Anthony LaPaglia as Roger East, a fearless foreign correspondent investigating the deaths of five Australian journalists during the 1975 Indonesian invasion of Timor-Leste. The film is a much an investigation as it is a drama; the plot is fragmented and reconstructed by East. This film is Australia’s answer to The Killing Fields, and it is a very good answer indeed.
Lantana (Dir. Ray Lawrence)
Like the other Ray Lawrence film on this list, Lantana explores complex and painfully imperfect relationships between people who are fallible and realistically rendered. These relationships are tested and become exposed when a mutual friend is reported missing. Lantana carefully balances realism with the demands of storytelling.
The Proposition (Dir. John Hillcoat)
Though a good western is hard to come by, The Proposition is one of the best. This gritty, hardboiled drama concerns a murderer and gang member, Charlie (Guy Pearce), who is offered amnesty by a ruthless police Captain (Ray Winstone) for himself and his younger brother if he hunts down and kills his older brother, a notorious psychopath and gang leader, Arthur (Danny Huston). Themes of loyalty and betrayal, anarchy and civilization, and punishment and cruelty profoundly colour this modern classic.
– Dave Robson