[Roderick Heath's expansive survey of the history of Australian cinema begins in that country's own silent era, and works forward into the 1960s. Parts II and III will bring us into the modern era.  Some of the silent films mentioned here are actually available to watch online; links provided.  So come meet the unsung heroes and pioneers of one of the world's most prolific and important film industries. Enjoy. - ed.] Diggers

By Roderick Heath

Part One: 1896-1968

1. Pioneer Spirit

Filmmaking technology first came to Australia in the hands of Maurice Sestier, one of the Lumiere Brothers' [Wikipedia] many globetrotting cameramen, who arrived in Sydney in 1896, not a month after the first exhibition of films by Carl Hertz in Melbourne. Sestier shot several short travelogues of such edifying spectacles as Sydney Harbor and the crowds filing onto ferries and trams, and opened the Salon Lumiere on Pitt Street specifically to screen them, making him both Australia's first filmmaker and professional exhibitor. Sestier's film was too slow to capture the racing horses at the Melbourne Cup later in the year, so he settled for shooting the crowds instead. Sestier decided there was no future for cinema in Australia and auctioned off his camera two years after arriving, leaving for France with all his films. Nonetheless his work had made an impact, inspiring a small number of followers who made documentary shorts and news reels which proceeded to tantalize crowds.

Of course, random shots of commuters and bushland were never going to fascinate paying patrons for very long. The idea of creating a fiction feature film may have been in many minds, but the man regarded as the first to accomplish it was an unlikely figure: Major Joseph Perry of the Salvation Army's Magic Lantern and Photographic Department. Perry, an Englishman residing in Melbourne, had shot a few short documentaries, and his first stab at a new kind of cinema was part of an early multimedia experience, with portions of his film shown in alternation with slides, sermons, and hymn singing, as part of a religious lecture. This movie, entitled Soldiers of the Cross, was essentially a series of illustrative sequences portraying the grisly fates of early Christian martyrs.

Blog entry 02/17/2010 - 10:04am

Laurent Cantet By Jonathan Marlow

"The tendency of cinema now is to be more and more connected to reality. If you look at the selection of films at the Cannes Film Festival this year, it was obvious. I think it is because the world in which we are living is more and more complex. It is becoming difficult to find a place in this world where you can ask these questions. Cinema provides a good place to ask these questions."

That's Laurent Cantet, talking with Jonathan Marlow about, among other things, his Palme d'Or-winning film, The Class. At GreenCine Daily, we've been collecting accolades for The Class from Cannes, the New York Film Festival and just here.

The Class is now out on DVD.

Blog entry 08/09/2009 - 9:57am

By Andrew Grant

[NB: Sion Sono was in New York last week for the New York Asian Film Festival, promoting his two latest films, Love Exposure and Be Sure to Share. I had a chance to sit down with him and discuss these films as well as his career as a whole, but our time was cut short owing to an overbooked schedule. Our too-brief interview was mostly spent discussing Love Exposure.—Andrew Grant]


Japanese director Sion Sono is fascinated with borderlines. Whether addressing love and hate, good and evil, the individual versus society, or even the distinction between art and commerce, it's the precarious balance between the two that defines and runs through most of his work.

Though he's directed nearly twenty films over the past thirty years, Sono's work remains relatively unknown in the States outside of the fanboy/J-Horror circle, with whom he made a splash in 2001 with the cult film Suicide Club. Several other titles have found a life on DVD, but unlike his peer Takashi Miike, he's never found acceptance from the arthouse crowd. However, that may change with Love Exposure, his 2008 four-hour near-masterpiece that has been picking up praise and awards at festivals worldwide, and which was a surprise hit at the Japanese box office.

Blog entry 07/07/2009 - 11:52am

Ari Folman By David D'Arcy

"Waltz With Bashir is a memoir, a history lesson, a combat picture, a piece of investigative journalism and an altogether amazing film," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "Directed by Ari Folman, an Israeli filmmaker whose struggle to make sense of his experience as a soldier in the Lebanon war of 1982 shapes its story, Waltz is by no means the world's only animated documentary, a phrase that sounds at first like a cinematic oxymoron. Movies like Richard Linklater's Waking Life and Brett Morgen's Chicago 10 have used animation to make reality seem more vivid and more strange, producing odd and fascinating experiments. But Mr Folman has gone further, creating something that is not only unique but also exemplary, a work of astonishing aesthetic integrity and searing moral power."

David D'Arcy talks with Folman about what makes an animated film vital long after its technical wow-effect wears off.

Blog entry 06/23/2009 - 7:46am

Tell No One By James Van Maanen

"Hitchcock's 'Wrong Man' scenario gets an invigorating French update in Tell No One, a long-winded but gripping thriller based on American author Harlan Coben's bestseller," writes Nick Schager in Slant, reviewing "a film whose entertainingly fleet (and sometimes downright harried) pace... and enticing central mysteries deliver the tangy kicks one craves from juicy pulp."

James Van Maanen talks with Coben and actor-director Guillaume Canet about their César Award-winner. Tell No One is now out on DVD.

Blog entry 03/31/2009 - 1:10pm

Steve McQueen By David D'Arcy

"Historical dramas often suffer from a certain stodgy remove, but in Hunger, conceptual artist and first-time feature filmmaker Steve McQueen takes his audience deep inside a particular place and time: Her Majesty's Prison Maze in Northern Ireland, circa 1981," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club. "McQueen wields his directorial control so tightly that at a certain point, his long takes start to look more like a stunt than the ideal way to convey information. But honestly, when a director has the eye and the feel of a McQueen, he earns the leeway to go down some blind alleys."

David D'Arcy talks with McQueen about the film that's won the Golden Camera in Cannes, among several other awards at festivals around the world.  Hunger opens in the US in NYC March 20 and in other cities soon thereafter.

Blog entry 03/20/2009 - 9:01am

Ferzan Ozpetek By James Van Maanen

"If you're lucky enough to have ever been part of a band of deeply close friends, then add writer/director Ferzan Ozpetek's new film Saturn in Opposition (Saturno Contro) to your must-see list immediately," wrote James Van Maanen when he caught the film as part of this summers Open Roads series of new Italian Films at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York.

It was then, too, that he got a chance to talk with the director about his work - and more than a little, too, about what the current administrations in the US and Italy are really after. Meantime, with Saturn in Opposition now coming out on DVD, you can take James's advice, too.

Blog entry 09/22/2008 - 11:59am

David Lean "Widescreen" and "epic" are the words that spring to mind when you hear the name David Lean. The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, A Passage to India: Big, sweeping, Oscar-scooping historical pageants, all. But Lean, who would have turned 100 this year, was hardly a one-trick pony. The British Film Institute has restored several of his earlier, overlooked features and screened them in a retrospective that began in London in the spring and now arrives on our shores - first stop, New York's Film Forum.

At the Daily, we've been following critical reaction all year-long to what essentially amounts to a rediscovery of a landmark talent. Take a look here, here and here.

Blog entry 09/15/2008 - 6:31am

A Girl Cut in Two By James Van Maanen

A Girl Cut in Two is "a rich, textured divertissement from Claude Chabrol, a sinister master of the art, who, after a series of vague if invariably entertaining cinematic sketches, has returned to elegant tight form with an erotically charged, beautifully directed story of a woman preyed upon by different men and her own warring desires," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times.

That woman, Gabrielle Deneige, is played by Ludivine Sagnier, who, at 29, has already appeared in around three dozen features. James Van Maanen has a long, leisurely chat with her about working with Chabrol, Claude Miller, François Ozon and other directors; and about watching movies, French politics and whatever else strikes their fancy (they seem to have hit it off).

Blog entry 08/15/2008 - 2:16am

(We're re-posting this from Criterion's web site. They asked GreenCine editor David Hudson to contribute his own 10 favorite Criterion titles - and a few honorable mentions - and now that it's up, here it is again, with links to the DVDs on our site.)

My Top Ten Criterions

David Hudson


David Hudson lives in Berlin and translated screenplays until the blog, GreenCine Daily, swallowed him whole.

It’s awfully daunting to scan a list of over four hundred titles—especially these four hundred–plus titles—and force yourself to pick out ten. I started out trying to cover all the bases: one from this genre, one from that director. But the list that was taking shape could’ve come from anyone. We’ve been bombarded well enough with canons. So, on a whim, I’ve decided to simply skim the spines and make an impulsive grab at the titles that conjure a memory or a smile—or a chill. This is not a “desert island” list. If it were, there’d be an Ozu, a Bresson, a Sturges, a Lubitsch. I’ll be the first to admit that this approach has led to a pretty goofy top ten, and as the common disclaimer goes, ask me on another day and you’ll get another list, but here goes.

Blog entry 07/17/2008 - 2:44pm

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