By Frances Hill - co-Director and founder of the Down Under Berlin Film festival.
The panel Aussies Abroad invited attending filmmakers to share their experiences of working Down Under and in other parts of the world. The diversity of cinema amongst Australian and New Zealand filmmakers is further encouraged through experiences outside of home and the place where directors grow up or spend their adult lives.
Many directors said their films were Australian, but this begs the question: What is Australian anyway? This group of filmmakers might agree on certain films that are typically, or iconically, Australian, naming Muriel’s Wedding, Chopper, or The Castle as examples. But what if something from Australia is translated into another cinematic language? The difficulty of taking successful Australian television shows to the USA clearly demonstrates the difference in understanding culture through art. With examples of Chris Lilley’s creations, like Summer Heights High and Angry Boys, or the cult Aussie show Wilfred, which has its own US counterpart, we could agree that the North American audience needed to be sold these shows in a different way to the audience Down Under.
On the question of why they had left their homes or their home countries, the reasons were usually in order to discover something new, and to expand one’s own horizons.
Many of the people in the panel talked about growing up in small towns, with little creative influence on their lives, and the drive behind achieving their goals took them out of their homes and into bigger cities. Leaving the country was a chance to meet like-minded people, to share in creative endeavours, and to be accepted by a community.
When asked where is home, the idea of acceptance became even more pertinent – home is where they accept you. Which means that home is not limited to one place or one group of people, home can be with your family in your hometown, and across the world with new friends and colleagues, especially in the business of filmmaking.
However, exactly this movement away from places that are thirsty for knowledge and creative input makes those creative hubs stronger and the small towns wanting for more. But as many filmmakers from Down Under travel the world, they are also reminded of the possibilities back home, and we hope that Australian and New Zealand cinema will grow as these people do, giving the audiences a taste of diversity, even at home.
The panel was attended by: Conor Lui, Carl Tomich, Rob de Kok, Angus McGruther, Freya Berkhout, Danny Keig, Sarah Doyle, Meg Mills, Martin Høgberget, Jack Rath, Diane Busuttil and Bryn Chainey (top picture: from left to right)