University of Tasmania
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Cinematic campfires : Australian feature film and reconciliation, 2000-2010

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posted on 2023-05-26, 00:03 authored by Pauline MarshPauline Marsh
In a speech at the Sydney Film Festival in 2005, actor Tom E. Lewis likened the Australian film industry to a campfire (see Lawson, Along‚ÄövÑvp 214). His metaphor creates a picture of the cinema as a site where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people gather to relax, tell and listen to stories, as they would around a campfire. This image of an inclusive cinema is especially pertinent given developments in the Australian feature film industry between 2000-2010. During this time an unprecedented number of feature films that focus on settler indigenous relationships were released, drawing attention to a wide range of issues associated with co-existence. Moreover, many deploy new and sometimes challenging representational strategies to depict Aborigines, settlers, and settler-indigenous relations. The central concerns of this thesis are these films and their extra-textual contexts. Although they are a varied collection, when considered together they constitute a new movement in Australian cinema: Reconciliation Cinema. In all its guises, Reconciliation Cinema is provocative. Reconciliation is not only the key conceptual, political, personal, social, and cultural context informing these films, it is also the subject of their critiques, celebrations and contestations. It is, however, an ongoing and problematic process in a perpetual state of redefinition. In Australia, reconciliation primarily involves recognising past wrongs, addressing the inequities that have resulted from the colonisation and dispossession of Aboriginal people, and ultimately improving relationships between settler and indigenous peoples. Reconciliation Cinema contributes new ideas to this process: through nuanced, fictional representations of Aborigines, settlers and settler-indigenous relations; and through the example of collaborative filmmaking. This thesis demonstrates the centrality of Reconciliation Cinema in developing self and national understandings of reconciliation. I contend that during 2000-2010 a cinematic metanarrative of reconciliation - a conglomeration of drama, intrigue, surprise, trauma, sorrow and celebration - was firmly established in Australian cinema. This thesis comprises close readings of feature films, which reveals the ways that reconciliatory notions become manifest in cinema. In addition, it examines and analyses the broader contexts in which these films are situated. I identify three sites of intersubjectivity - on-screen, off-screen and reception (between spectator and screen) - where dated modes of cross-cultural interaction are re-negotiated, and new models of behaviour are determined.


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  • Unpublished

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Copyright 2012 the author Parts of this thesis appear in an article published as: Marsh, M., 2013. Family tremors: Margot Nash's Call me mum, Journal of the European Association for Studies of Australia, 4(I), 103-116. Parts of this thesis appear in an article published as: Marsh, M., 2014. The primitive, the sacred and the stoned in Richard J. Frankland's Stone bros., Studies in Australasian cinema, 6(1), 29-43

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