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By Joshua Smith

Film Review: Newsfront (1978)
Author: Joshua Smith
Published on: February 17, 1998

Leading Players: Bill Hunter (Len Maguire), Gerard Kennedy (Frank Maguire), Angela Punch-McGregor (Fay Maguire), Wendy Hughes (Amy McKenzie), Chris Haywood (Chris Hewett), John Ewart (Charlie), Don Crosbie (A.G. Marawood), John Dease (Ken), John Clayton (Cliff), Bryan Brown (Geoff).

Main Crew: prod, David Elfick; dir, Phillip Noyce; writ, Phillip Noyce, Bub Ellis (based on an idea by David Elfick and Phillipe Mora); dop, Vincent Monton; ed, John Scott; mus, William Motzing; art d, Lawrence Eastwood; fx, Kim Hilder; cos, Norma Moriceau.

Considered a classic addition to Australia's cinematic Renaissance of the 1970s, Newsfront marked not only the 'rebirth' of Australian cinema, but the birth of one of Australia's finest directors, Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm, Patriot Games).

Set in Australia's late 1940s and early 50s, Newsfront explores a nation in an age of great political, social and economic change following the Second World War. The films characters are pioneers of sorts, shooting newsreel footage prior to the advent of television. As they document the events that changed this nation permanently, their own lives made a parallel journey as each was asked to re-evaluate his/her goals in life as television marked the end of the newsreel.

The main character, Len (Bill Hunter), is a man whose work consumes him. He is loyal to his job to the point that he sacrifices the failing relationship that develops between he and his fanatical religious wife in order to continue working. He appears to fit the traditional Australian 'loser' archetype, as Frank, his ambitious brother, takes off to Hollywood where his talent can be fully realised, though as his die-hard loyalty and determination is revealed, Len begins to manifest into the form of the loner-hero, ala Mad Max (1979). Resembling much of the work of Robert Altman (The Player, Pret-a-Porter), Phillip Noyce has cast many of Australia's most recognised performers in roles that are deeply self-reflexive upon the industry.

Bill Hunter, Wendy Hughes, Chris Haywood and Bryan Brown were, and still are, staples of the Australian film industry, lending a sense of realism to the film. In fact, the film reflects a social realist sensibility to the point at which it almost resembles a documentary; a work seemingly constructed by the characters whose tragic lives we, as an audience, trace. Interspersing original footage with nostalgic stock black-and-white newsreel footage, and complementing this by switching intermittently from colour to b/w film stock, Phillip Noyce has constructed a disjointed atmosphere that reflects the sense of those who lived through such an age; an age in which Australia's political leaders tried to ban the Communist party, and age in which television was introduced to the nation, an age in which Australia hosted its first Olympic Games.

It was indeed a time of change and reformation, and Noyce's Newsfront stands as a fitting tribute not only to the forefathers of the Australian film industry, but to the birth of Australia as we know it.

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