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Canberra Today 18°/20° | Monday, January 24, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Australians who share a whole lot of Hollywood 

Nicole Kidman in the 2007 fantasy film, “The Golden Compass”.

THE coming Hollywood exhibition at the National Film and Sound Archive is not just a big summer blockbuster for the archive – it hits at the institution’s very raison d’etre.

For, as new CEO Patrick McIntyre says, for the first time in two decades a major exhibition has been curated primarily from the NFSA’s collection, marking a moment of transformation for the archive.

Not just that, “Australians & Hollywood: a tale of craft, talent, and ambition”, shares stories and memories that “provide an insight into our national character, and where we might be heading”.

“It’s our first big exhibition in 20 years… reinvigorating our gallery space,” says curator Tara Marynowsky, an art school graduate and film tragic who’s been at the NFSA for 14 years.

“It gives us a chance to bring in our own collection even while we are reaching out to stakeholders to bring in material from other collections.”

Those stakeholders are quite something – six-time Oscar winner George Miller, of “Mad Max”, “Happy Feet” and “Babe” fame for one, and Baz Luhrmann, still producing blockbusters, as well as individual donors of personal treasures such as David Michôd, Greig Fraser, George Miller, Mia Wasikowska, Norma Moriceau, Eric Bana and Paul Hogan.

With enthusiasm, Marynowsky explains how this exhibition will be a visual feast. 

“With lots of A/V screens and audio elements and also beautiful costumes from our collection, the whole thing is being done as a digital journey you can take on your device; so bring your phones to the gallery, everyone,” she says.

Her favourite things are some beautiful film projections of early rushes from “Mad Max I”, showing how they made that film, accessible thanks to the Kennedy-Miller organisation.

Looking back on the past couple of years of covid she says: “It’s a good time to have been able to do this. It’s all come together so well and it’s been lovely to do it, actually.

“This first big show is Canberra exclusive, too. We are here in Canberra, so we want our audiences to have a good time.”

“Australians & Hollywood” will be a show where you’ll need to know the context. One of the central objects, for instance, will be Mad Max’s steering wheel from “Fury Road”, which features a skull as a kind of figurehead.

Then there are Crocodile Dundee’s hat and leather belt on loan from Paul Hogan, but surely everybody will recognise them. 

Favourite items for her are from the collection of the late Norma Moriceau, who designed biker-warrior outfits for “Mad Max 2” and “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”, as well as Angus Strathie’s Oscar-winning Can-Can frocks for “Moulin Rouge!” and Catherine Martin’s art concept books for “Romeo + Juliet”.

A true believer in Australian cinema, Marynowsky reminds me we made the first feature film, the 1906 production of “The Story of the Kelly Gang”. 

“We are storytellers… filmmaking and storytelling are such a large part of our culture, she says.

With that in mind, the exhibition focuses on pivotal moments from the last 30 years, so, she says, they’ve opted for a very contemporary look.

“It’s not just about Hollywood power, it’s about the makers and there will be a focus on First Nations film directors including Rachel Perkins, Warwick Thornton, Wayne Blair and Ivan Sen,” she says. 

Marynowsky is adamant that they’re not pinpointing single films: “We’re trying to say it’s about Australians AND Hollywood, not so much our global success as success on our own terms.”

And she’s keen to point out that it’s not just about the big-name designers, but also about the Australian make-up artists, editors and producers, many of whom cut their teeth on indie features, but later found global success.

Sure, the NFSA is using striking images of Cate Blanchett in Del Kathryn Barton’s short film “Red” and Nicole Kidman in the 2007 fantasy film, “The Golden Compass” to promote the show, but when you see the exhibition in three dimensions, you’ll see something quite different, as with the still of Ralph Fiennes peering through a glass church model to look at Blanchett in “Oscar and Lucinda” by Gillian Armstrong. 

Of course, there will be celebs hanging around and they’re expecting to have a good line-up of movers and shakers to the launch, which was postponed from early December to late January. 

With the capacious Arc Cinema on hand to balance the exhibition space with screenings, the idea is, Marynowsky says, that you look at the exhibition then go and experience the films.

“It’s a really fun show celebrating the art form a lot of people love the most – and there are some films that haven’t even been released yet,” she says. 

“Australians & Hollywood: a tale of craft, talent, and ambition”, National Film and Sound Archive, January 21-July 17. Book at nfsa.gov.au

 

 

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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