Australian Filmmakers Building Their Legacy: Part 3

July 13, 2018
Tracey Moffatt Since the late ‘80s, filmmaker and visual artist Tracey Moffatt AO has worked across filmed pieces and installations, counting documentaries, features and short films among her works. The first short film by the director was Nice Coloured Girls (1987), taking on the historical experience of Indigenous women in Australia. This was followed by photographic work Something More (1989), ...

Tracey Moffatt

Since the late ‘80s, filmmaker and visual artist Tracey Moffatt AO has worked across filmed pieces and installations, counting documentaries, features and short films among her works.

The first short film by the director was Nice Coloured Girls (1987), taking on the historical experience of Indigenous women in Australia.

This was followed by photographic work Something More (1989), a series of nine images. One of Moffatt’s major works, gaining significant renown, the piece has travelled to New York, Vienna and Wellington, amongst other major cities.

With her 1993 horror feature Bedevil, made up of three separate narratives, Moffatt was selected to be part of Un Certain Regard at Cannes, putting her in rare company among Australian filmmakers.

A historic feat in and of itself, this was the first film directed by an Aboriginal woman.

Following that, the iconoclast has continued to make works consistently outside mainstream conventions. 1997 film Heaven was shot in the style of an amateur vacation home video, 1999 feature Lip, centers on race tensions, collated clips of depictions in film and TV, whilst her next film Artist (2000) employed similar non-narrative tools.

Despite her transition away from focusing on traditional filmmaking, Moffatt’s photographic works have often been called cinematic in composition and design, and widely regarded as photo narrative.

Most recently the visual artist’s solo exhibition “My Horizon”, which comprised two short films (Vigil and The White Ghosts Sailed In) and multiple photographs, was chosen to represent Australia at the Historic 57th Venice Biennale Art Exhibition in 2017.

This was the first time since 1997 that Australia had been represented by an Indigenous artist at the Biennale.

Successfully transitioning from an emerging filmmaker to this country’s leading artist, Tracey Moffatt continues to create new visual pieces.

Philippe Mora

France-born Australian filmmaker/artist Philippe Mora, son of Melbourne artist Mirka Mora and gallery owner Geogres Mora, brother of actor Tiriel Mora, began making experimental shorts films at the age of 15.

Growing up in Melbourne, where his parents owned restaurants, Mora filmed his shorts around St Kilda and the Melbourne CBD, the streets he grew up in.

One of his first films, 1966 silent short Man In A Film was shot at the Heide Museum of Modern Art as it was being built, and was influenced by viewings of Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night.

Also a painter, Mora moved to England in 1967, where he directed his first feature in 1970, Trouble in Molopolis (1970), partly financed by Eric Clapton and featuring Germaine Greer and Martin Sharp.

Mora’s next releases were documentaries Swastika and Brother, Can You Spare a Dime, both compilations of archival footage that presented theses on Fascism and the Great Depression respectively.

A year later, Mora’s first large-scale film was released, bushranger saga Mad Dog Morgan, inspired by Sam Peckinpah, and starring Dennis Hopper as the infamous felon who inspired Ned Kelly.

The film screened at Cannes, winning The John Ford Award on the Croisette, and gained the largest release for an Australian film in the US at the time.

This directly led to Mora’s first American film, 1982 horror The Beast Within, starring a gang of classic American character actors, including Ronny Cox, Don Gordon, Bibi Besch, R.G. Armstrong, L.Q. Jones among many others.

Mora followed that up with one of the strangest Australian films ever made, the 1983 Superhero Musical The Return of Captain Invincible, starring Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee.

A Breed Apart (1984) with Rutger Hauer, Howling 2 and the Australian made curio The Marsupials: Howling III (recently restored by the NFSA) followed in quick succession, a s did Death of A Soldier (1986), a political thriller starring James Coburn shot in Melbourne.

In 1989, the director shot sci-fi Communion with Christopher Walken.

Mora has continued to work on a wide range of directorial vehicles through to today – Art Deco Detective, Back in Business, Joseph’s Gif, and most recently directing documentary Three Days In Auschwitz in 2015.

Still active and developing projects, Mora is still attempting to set up a project he’s been working on for decades – tentatively known as When We Were Modern, set around the relationship of painter Sidney Nolan with his wife and mistress. The film is still in development.

Philippe Mora has continued to paint and make documentaries, was recently honoured by the Oldenburg Film Festival in Germany, and was also a participant in recent documentary Monsieur Mayonnaise, which explored Mora’s family history during WWII.

Cate Shortland

Regional NSW born, Canberra raised Cate Shortland began making short films in the mid ‘90s, directing episodes of The Secret Life of Us, before making her debut feature, 2004’s Somersault, which featured Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington. Garnering plaudits worldwide, the drama served as Shortland’s breakthrough.

Similar to Tracey Moffatt’s Bedevil, the film was selected to be part of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard that year.

Eight years after Somersault, Shortland released her follow-up film – 2012’s Lore, which premiered at the Sydney Film Festival. The historical drama, set in the aftermath to World War II, also played at the Locarno Film Festival.

Shortland took another long break between features, working as a writer on a number of top tier TV series, The Slap, Devil’s Playground, Deadline Gallipoli and The Kettering Incident, before getting back in the director’s chair for Berlin Syndrome, which was released in 2017, and was subsequently picked up by Netflix worldwide.

Shot in Melbourne, the Berlin-set thriller starred Teresa Palmer as a young Australian photographer trapped in the German Capital. The film premiered at Sundance.

Cate Shortland is said to be working on another film in collaboration with her Somersault producer Jan Chapman, and has hit the headlines for scoring the highly prized job of directing Marvel’s Black Widow movie.

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