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Your guide to Australian film.
By Joshua Smith

Director Profile: Jane Campion
Author: Joshua Smith
Published on: July 28, 1998

Though Jane Campion is, officially, a New Zealander, she has often been regarded an Australian director since she was educated in Sydney and began her distinguished filmmaking career here. Jane Campion is regarded by many as the most successful graduate of the AFTRS, Australia's national film school. During the past 16 years, she has been awarded two Palm D'Or awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Palm D'Or being the most cherished award within the filmmaking community. Such an accomplishment has led to her being awarded almost total artistic freedom with her later works.

Jane directed, wrote and edited her first short film, Peel, An Exercise in Discipline in 1982. In a scenario straight out of a dream, she received a great deal of success with her modestly-budgeted debut, winning Cannes' most coveted award - the first woman to ever do so. Such enthusiastic critical reaction proved to the filmmaking community that Jane Campion was a significant talent in Australia's Post New Wave; a creative being capable of creating complex metaphors within her deep characters and the manner by which they interplay.

Jane continued making films with gusto, directing three more short films, Passionless Moments (1983), After Hours (1984) and A Girl's Own Story (1984), for which, incidentally, Alex Proyas composed the musical score. Each of these films received awards both within Australia and abroad, allowing Jane to advance her career into the independent feature film market. In fact, Jane Campion's short films continue to screen at film festivals around the world.

Jane's first feature film, Sweetie (1989), which she co-wrote and directed, was a moderate commerical success both in Australia and New Zealand, while again netting Jane a number of awards, including Australian Critics' Awards for Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress. An Angel At My Table (1990), a complex and darkly humorous look at psychosis, followed. Angel was voted "most popular film" at that year's Sydney Film Festival, as well as being awarded a Silver Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.

What followed was to become Jane's most commercially and critically successful film, the intense visual masterpiece The Piano (1993). The Piano became her second Palm D'Or winning film. It also received a plethora of Academy Award nominations, including Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, the latter of which she won.

In 1996, Jane directed Portrait Of a Lady, starring Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich. While her film was praised for its visual style, it was not received well by many critics; a trend that was also reflected in its box-office receipts.

At present, however, Jane is working on the eagerly-awaited Holy Smoke, on which she is acting as both writer and director. Undoubtedly, the film wil once again showcase Jane's trademark colour saturation, bizarre characters and romantic vision.

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