Tina Kaufman begs the question on Screen Australia

Those of you who read my essay on Australian culture at NewMatilda.com will know I’ve got a keen interest in Australia’s evolving screen policy controversy.

Now Tina Kaufman at Inside Story has a long feature that covers the birth pains of the new body, Screen Australia, that has replaced the AFC and FFC. Kaufman covers some of the same territory I travelled, including the Schembri controversy,  as well as examining the specific controversies emerging over Screen Australia’s decision to curtail short film funding and support for so-called “emerging” film-makers.

Unfortunately, Kaufman’s article is a disappointingly shallow analysis that rounds up what the various mainstream critics think, only to  dismiss them. This paragraph gives you an idea, as Kaufman complains about a lack of substance in media  criticism of Australian film-making, without offering any herself:

So what are we to make of all this? Probably not very much. It’s really just another, if more extensive, episode of what has been a rather regular event, the media getting stuck into Australian films and filmmaking. It would be more valuable if the debate reached some sound and achievable conclusions, but it never really does. So many years, so much money, so many highs, and recently, so many more lows – this must indicate that the whole business is a lot more complex and much harder to get right than what seems to come through much of the commentary: “You are making the wrong kind of movies!”

Near the end of Kaufman’s article, she finally finds the question she should have begun with:

A number of the films the commentators have labelled “dark and depressing” and therefore not worth seeing, have actually been good films and well worth seeing – so why didn’t they reach an audience?

For a more nuanced analysis of exactly this problem, see Robert Miller and Robert Connolly.


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