Local Australian films offer an eclectic choice

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Local Australian films have not performed particularly well in the first five months of the year, registering less than 2% of the total box office. But the best performers have been a strangely eclectic mix: horror, history, murder and music. What more could you want? Top of the 13 local films released so far this year is the U.S.-Australian underwater thriller James Cameron's Sanctum, which took A$3.8 million.

In second spot is a British-Australian co-production, Oranges and Sunshine (A$3 million and still playing). Just after World War II ended, some 130,000 British children were shipped out to British colonies, mainly Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Children as young as four were wrongly told their parents were dead and ended up in orphanages on the far side of the world, where some were subject to very bad treatment. A British social worker (played by Emily Watson) discovered this some years later and tried to reunite families. The resulting film, with local stars Hugo Weaving and David Wenham, is a very touching drama.

Just passing the A$1 million mark is Snowtown, a film that attracted strong interest at Cannes. Around ten years ago, a number of bodies were found in barrels at Snowtown near the southern Australian city of Adelaide. (A city of churches, Adelaide has had some of the most gruesome and highly publicized murders in Australia.) The film focuses on the charismatic killer and the 16-year-old boy that he enticed into his world of bigotry and murder. This is a very tough film with some excellent performances, many from nonprofessional actors.

Very different is the other A$1 million-plus film, the documentary Mrs. Carey's Concert. High-school music teacher Karen Carey books the Sydney Opera House for a concert every two years. All 1,200 girls from her high school must perform in the classical concert, although not all are willing participants. The movie is probably destined for TV screenings in other territories.

Both of these last two films have only played on limited screens, so the A$1 million taking is a good result. And they are still playing.

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Sydney is the latest city to get a “love” film. Following the compilation films Paris, Je T'aime and New York, I Love You, Australian director John Polson and producer Gary Hamilton have announced Sydney, I Love You. Twelve local directors will each make an eight to ten-minute film during 2012 for release in late 2012 or early 2013. Each vignette will take place in Sydney, but in a different month, and each will deal with love in its own way. No directors have been announced yet.

E-mail news items to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.