From The Dry to My Name Is Gulpilil: Australia’s 10 Best Movies of 2021 | australian cinema

MMost – if not all – of us would like the memories of 2021 to be erased from our minds after a rush so we can move on from a year that – just like the previous one – has been rightly and consistently referred to as a ‘shitshow’. . But to continue, we would like to bring with us the movies that got us through, including several from our national cinema, which offered more than a few treats to break up the chaos and drudgery.

It has been a particularly strong year for documentaries, with five on this list – three of them exploring artists who have had a profound impact on Australian culture. To qualify for this list, films had to have had a release outside the festival circuit, whether in theaters or on a streaming platform.

10. Streamline

Levi Miller stars as swimming prodigy Benjamin Lane in Streamline. Photography: Tom Paul Byrnes / Umbrella Entertainment

The sports film genre is filled with cheesy tales of triumph on the field or in the pool, or even in the competitive world of throwing paper planes. Writer-director Tyson Wade Johnston initially appears to be leading Streamline in the rah-rah “must win at all costs!” Making so many films before, pointing out that teenager Benjamin Lane (Levi Miller) could be a swimming champion if he buckles up and gives it all.

But the drama becomes something altogether different when life, as they say, gets in the way of the protagonist, with major distractions including the release of his father (Jason Isaacs) from prison and the bad influence of a belligerent brother ( Jake Ryan). This clever and addicting film is more interested in masculinity (toxic or otherwise) than in freestyle tricks.

9. My first summer

There are two beautiful things at the heart of writer and director Katie Found’s feature debut: first, a pair of wonderful performances by Markella Kavenagh and Maiah Stewardson, playing teens who connect deeply during a formative period in their lives; and, second, a pleasant and tactile visual style that covers them like a warm blanket.

Simple moments (like one of the girls leaning her head against the other’s chest) resonate with complex feelings and elements that might have seemed heavy (like a ruminating voiceover reflecting the death of one of the mothers of the girls) feel won over and unpretentious. Found evokes a bittersweet feeling: that precious things cannot last, although they can always be remembered.

8. The Witch of Kings Cross

Sonia Bible’s trippy documentary about artist and self-proclaimed witch Rosaleen Norton is aesthetically daring, and the so-called “Witch of Kings Cross” surely wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. The Bible film uses all manner of techniques to illustrate Norton’s life, joining a collection of documentaries that not only investigate Australian artists, but channel the look and feel of their work, including Ecco Homo, Whiteley and Women He’s Undressed.

I loved the educational hallucinogenic atmosphere of the film: an Australian history lesson thrown into a cauldron. It is a vivid image of a colorful individual and an ode to the joys of bohemian life, especially city life, where sunset marks the start of a new night rather than the end of a day. .

7. Strong female head

Watch the Strong Female Lead Trailer - vidéo
Watch the Strong Female Lead Trailer Рvid̩o

The style of British documentary filmmaker Asif Kapadia, who assembles his films primarily using pre-existing materials, has been channeled into two electrifying Australian productions: the 2019 Adam Goodes doco The Final Quarter and now Tosca Looby’s tale of lived sexism and misogyny by Julia Gillard during her tenure as Australia’s first female Prime Minister. Strong Female Lead, which is part of SBS’s Uncovered Australian feature-length documentary series, makes shivers and wince – a catalog of national shame. It is important, a visceral vision.

6. June again

Suffering from debilitating dementia, June (a formidable Noni Hazlehurst) suddenly comes out and recovers, but her doctors tell her that her newfound lucidity will not last long. So she makes a Randle McMurphy and escapes from a retirement home to reconnect with her family. It sounds like sentimental mush, but instead, June discovers a surreal world outside of her known reality in which things have changed for the worse, including because of the family fallout – a concept similar to the classic Australian film Bliss. and the Peter Carey novel it was based on.

Writer-director JJ Winlove juggles dramatic and fun elements, creating a film about inevitability in many forms: limitations of body and mind, to begin with, and also other things we can’t. change, like the nature of relationships between others.

5. The dry

Eric Bana and Genevieve O'Reilly in The Dry.
Eric Bana and Genevieve O’Reilly in The Dry. Photograph: Ben King / AP

Jane Harper’s revolving book about a sleuth investigating a potential murder in a barren small town is engaging read, but a bit of an airport novel, with a clear genre phrase and catchy elements. Director Robert Connolly’s unappealing adaptation is an example of a film classier than its original material. Harper’s timeline changes prove to be perfect for flashbacks detailing events long ago, when the aforementioned detective (a moody Eric Bana) lived in the town he reluctantly returns to.

There are two basic mysteries: one involving the distant past where the protagonist may or may not have committed some sort of crime, and the other the present, when there may or may not have been a murder. It sounds vague, but the script and direction is precise and gives an atmospheric intensity with a wide, dry look.

4. Firestarter: The Bangarra Story

Bangarra dancers
The world famous Bangarra Dance Theater is the subject of Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin’s documentary. Photography: Daniel Boud / ABC

The incredible performers of the Bangarra Dance Theater take us to places that transcend words. It’s fitting that Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin’s documentary on the history and formation of the group – including the story of art director Stephen Page and his family – is crafted with a sense of movement and movement, almost like if he also danced. Understanding that this is a story connected to many things – including art, expression and of course Indigenous culture, both ancient and modern – they create a kind of alluring history lesson .

3. Burn

The Australian government’s abominable handling of the climate crisis is a touching subject for many of us who have watched in horror as our elected leaders not only fail to act, but also spill gasoline on the fire. Eva Orner’s Goosebumps documentary, which centers on the catastrophic black summer bushfire season of 2019-2020, tackles a difficult subject with courage and clarity, highlighting the despicable failures of the Morrison government and more generally a world that cannot sustain its dedication to fossil fuels.

Many important talking points are explored quickly but densely, including the role of the media in climate denial and the differences (in frequency and severity) between bushfires as they were and as they are. now in a so called “new normal”. ”. Burning is one of the most important Australian documentaries of the 21st century.

2. Nitrame

Nitram again
Nitram, who tells the story of Martin Bryant, navigates a field plagued by ethical issues. Photography: Stan

Back when Justin Kurzel’s haunting poetic drama on the life of Martin Bryant came out, I watched a ton of movies focused on mass shootings – a downright horrible way to spend your time, lots of that sort of thing. Kurzel and screenwriter Shaun Grant (who worked together on Snowtown and True History of the Kelly Gang) diligently avoid. Their film has no gratuity, no sensationalism, no simple definition of mental illness, no crass message about the banality of evil.

Each scene in Nitram navigates a minefield of ethical issues; they know that every moment will be scrutinized for its implications. It’s a challenge but done brilliantly and boldly, with an important message at its heart about gun control – an issue that shouldn’t disappear from the national conversation.

1. My name is Gulpilil

Great actor David Gulpilil died late last month after a long illness following a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer. Molly Reynolds’ astonishing documentary plays like a sort of living wake, with a Buñuelian image that has clung to my mind like glue: of Gulpilil lying in a coffin, covered with film strips, which shoot out like s ‘it was a part of man himself – or a natural part of the environment from which he emerged.

After Gulpilil’s death, many writers (myself included) have attempted to express in words the magic of Gulpilil’s screen charisma – an impossible task. Reynolds acknowledged that a mere memory of the actor’s life would have done his enigmatic talent a disservice, instead creating a beautifully unconventional film that moves in fluid beats, edited as if its cuts and strings were reels of memories.

About Monty S. Maynard

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