The New Breed - Australia's Post New Wave revival
Published on: March 17, 1998
The Renaissance of the 1970s indicated a period in which Australia's cultural artists attempted to define our nation. It was a period of great prosperity in the Australian film industry, with our films receiving approval from critics and audiences alike.
Through the 1980s, it appeared that this level of acclaim for Australia's cinematic products would never be equalled. This decade, though, a 'new breed' of Australians are redefining the nation and its films, while attracting international approval. Films produced during this, the Post-New Wave revival, have created a resurgence of audience interest in local cultural products.
Films such as Strictly Ballroom, Muriel's Wedding, Babe, The Castle and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert have raked in big dollars at the box office. Similarly, Proof, Romper Stomper, Shine, The Piano and last year's Kiss or Kill have become international artistic successes (The Piano winning the Palm D'Or at Cannes).
These films celebrate the banality and richness of contemporary urban life, while avoiding the social realist mould that characterised most Australian films made during the 1980s. In fact, films of the Post New Wave are characterised by a quasi-surreal vision. Stylistically, many of the films released in Australia of late are innovative, even 'quirky' or 'eccentric'. This has resulted from the need to differentiate Australian films from the popular products of Hollywood.
With this success, however, comes the unfortunate fact that many of our most promising directors are lured towards Hollywood and its big budgets. Baz Luhrmann, Jocelyn Moorhouse, P.J. Hogan, Jane Campion and Geoffrey Wright, all popular directors of the Post New Wave, have made (or are currently filming) movies in America. While this is considered a sign of Australia's cultural vibrancy and an acceptance of our works in overseas markets, it also means that Australian talent is drained from our nation.
Let's hope that Bill Bennett, Stephen Elliott and the Geoffrey Wrights and Jane Campions of the future will receive enough local support to enable them to sustain their high quality production of films in Australia.