A ruggedly handsome man with a snakeskin jacket and a necklace made of teeth stands awkwardly in a modern bathroom, looking puzzled at the strange second toilet. “It’s a bidet,” an attractive woman says to him. “It’s…well, I’ll let you figure it out.”
This classic scene will be recognized by many as one from Crocodile Dundee, one of just many Australian films that feature a rugged bushman as a central figure.
OVID.tv Collection Shines a Light on Film History
The documentary 40,000 Years and Dreaming, originally aired in 1999, introducing viewers to not just this trope, but many other that have surfaced in the last century of the country’s film history. It also provides the context to breakdown these archetypes — in Dundee’s case, the tough-as-nails backwoodsman.
We learn from the film’s narrator that cinema has provided an opportunity for Australians to not just create characters like this, but also to explore deeper aspects of their culture, such as their apprehension with the “dissonance and the dread” experienced in the country’s great open spaces (as seen in the film Picnic at Hanging Rock).
The documentary is not a comprehensive survey of the region’s film achievements, nor a way to tell Australian history through the lens of film. Rather it gives viewers an understanding of how tropes and movements in Australian society became reflected on the screen, both with irony and earnestness. This reviewer, not a native Australian, was confused – but perhaps intrigued--by a comment from the narrator as he began the walk through cinema, saying, “Our movies are the songlines of white fellas’ Australia, and like the songs of the aboriginal creation fathers, they sing us to be.” A foreigner, such as this reviewer, then concludes that clearly the country has all the complexities of many modern-day societies.
Australian cinema has made great strides since the documentary’s completion, and a sequel to this project would be of great interest. For the meantime, this introduction serves as a great starting point to explore the first century’s canon.
For more information or to view the film visit the Ovid.tv webpage for 40,000 Years of Dreaming
Images courtesy of Ovid.tv
Ryan Davis (@indieartsvoice) is a film publicist and communications professional with over ten years experience in the film industry and arts marketing. She is co-founder and Principal at Smarthouse Creative. Named by Media Inc. as one of Washington State's most influential women in film, TV, and media, Ryan has worked with outlets ranging from CNN and The New York Times, to community newspapers and local radio. She has worked in almost every aspect of the film business--from production and festivals to distribution, exhibition and sales.
Ryan worked for Arab Film Distribution/Typecast Films where she was part of the production and release of the Academy Award-nominated Iraq in Fragments. She has worked for a variety of nonprofit arts groups and organizations, including heading the marketing departments for Northwest Film Forum and Northwest Folklife, and was the assistant director of Couch Fest Films from 2010-2014. Ryan was on the jury for the International Documentary Challenge for 2012-3, and a juror for the 2015 Seattle Shorts Festival. Ryan currently sits on the board of The Grand Cinema in Tacoma, WA.