Australian Identity in Film

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The pursuit of a fixed definition to the Australian identity has been a controversial journey, and the identity remains as elusive as ever today. For that reason, the theme of the 2009 Brisbane Film Festival will be Australian Identity in Film – A Retrospective, as we hope to explore the ways in which Australian feature films have helped shape the complexities and diversity of Australia’s culture and identity. In particular, the festival will explore the diverse representations of homosexuals in Australian film and how this has influenced society’s perception and acceptance. For many years, Australian film has formed a consistent stereotype for men; that is, the typically macho outback Bushman. He was a strong, tough figure, albeit harmless, who in time moved from the dangerous bush to the footy field, accompanied by a beer and a token Sheila. However, by the 1990s Australia was somewhat obsessed with broadening depictions of Australian society, and began to challenge this stereotype by putting homosexuals into the spotlight. With the emergence of films such as Strictly Ballroom and Bootmen, diversity in Australian masculinity had become apparent in film. Two films in particular that exemplified Australia’s developing acceptance of homosexuals are The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and The Sum Of Us. Although these two films differ markedly in their portrayals of homosexuality, both promote the theme of accepting alternate definitions of homosexuality and sexual minorities. The releases of both films were revolutionary, and coincided with Sydney’s first Mardi Gras; a festival for homosexual people. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), directed by Stephan Elliot, follows three eccentric drag artists as they journey through the Australian desert on an invitation to perform at the Alice Springs Casino. On the way ‘Tick’, ‘Felicia’ and ‘Bernadette’ face issues of prejudice and intolerance. The film directly confronts the Crocodile Dundee ideology of...
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