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Red Continent

3 minutes to read

The Opening lines of Aussie flicks are getting a little monotonous.

In 1939, Lady Sarah Ashley travels from England to northern Australia…

In 1926 in the Australian outback town of Dungatar…

In 1971, a truck driver, Thomas arrives in Dampier, Western Australia…

Set in the Australian outback in the 1880’s

In Broome, Western Australia in 1999…

Australia is red. It’s full of murderous highwaymen and country towns with dark secrets, accents that I don’t hear often and hats I’ve never seen on anybody but parking inspectors. It’s got heaps of white people in it. Many of them are Guy Pierce and Hugo Weaving. Some of them are Joel Edgerton. Russel Crowe occasionally appears to trick you into thinking that he’s not a Kiwi national.

Australia never plays itself.

A thought: imagine if every American film was set in Texas – a hotbed of racial tension and nationalistic feeling. Famous for its desert landscapes, deeply conservative mindset and basically loving itself sick. Guns and flags and huge swathes of normalised bigotry. That’d be pretty stupid, right? I wouldn’t watch American films if they were all set in Texas. It would get super boring.

Wolf Creek 2
Wolf Creek 2. source

So why would I watch Australian films?

They’re all set in the same place and are all about the same people. There’s no doubt that this image is immensely profitable – our most internationally profitable films tend to be set in the elusive outback – but it’s also kind of gross: like that kid in high school who figured out what aspect of his personality was most likely to make him popular and doubled down on it. Most Australian films don’t reflect the everyday life of the average Australian. They’re about Ivan Milat and Nicole Kidman and have pretty clear good/evil dichotomies. And they’re really fucking red.

Why is that?

UOW-based creative & filmmaker Keiden Cheung might have the answer:

“I think like all stereotypes, the image of Australia and the typical Australiana is based partially on truth. But it got blown up on the international stage by things like Croc Dundee and The Simpsons.”

“Initially, life in Australia took on that classic outback kind of vibe. It would be fair to say that it was a reality. But now, the international image of Australia generally centres on stereotypes and tropes. It’s an image that is comfortable for the mass audience because they’re accustomed to that image. It’s no mystery that change is an aspect that many tend to avoid, consciously or not.”

Australian films do seem to be obsessed with the past. It’s like they’re constantly longing for the good old days. Sure, you might be beset on all sides by serial killers, Japanese bombers and gangs of roving criminals, but you knew who the bad guys were. Things are a good deal murkier today. More and more it seems that the systems set up to protect us are doing