Australian Film Commission
This is archived information from the website of the former Australian Film Commission (AFC), now part of Screen Australia
21 August 2019
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RDSN 08 Program


Summer is here! After its debut world premiere at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, New York, and a sell-out Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, Newcastle took centre stage on the Regional Digital Screen Network, Wednesday 5 November and at The Regent Theatre in Yarram, Sunday 9 November.

It's a week before the Junior Surf Pro final and Jesse (Lachlan Buchanan) is determined to snatch the title from his best mate, Andy (Kirk Jenkins). Victory would mean a one-way ticket out of Newcastle and a career beyond his pre-destined future - working on the coal barges with his father Reggie (Shane Jacobson) and older half-brother Victor (Reshad Strik), the local bad boy.

Jesse resolves to succeed where Victor failed and become a world-class champion surfer. Yet before Jesse gets his chance, he is disqualified for reckless surfing in the lead-up trial.

As a diversion, Jesse's surfing mates Andy, Scotty (Israel Cannan) and Nathan (Ben Milliken) plan a weekend of waves with the local girls Debra (Debra Ades) and Leah (Rebecca Breeds). Much to Jesse's dismay, Fergus (Xavier Samuels), Jesse's geeky, fraternal twin brother who has never even set foot on a surfboard, gets to tag along. Upon reaching the sand dunes, the teenagers swim, surf and party, and things get hot when a dramatic, unofficial surf contest gets under way.

Newcastle is the debut feature for writer/director Dan Castle. "The goal was to create a film that audience members - both young and old - would identify with and experience as true and real to what they feel they are going through, or did when they were teenagers," says Castle.

Set in the coastal city of Newcastle (NSW, Australia) this action drama is a coming-of-age tale of elusive dreams and the eternal wave. Newcastle is an exhilarating new film and features a brilliant ensemble cast including Anthony Hayes (The Square, Suburban Mayhem), Joy Smithers (All Saints, Home and Away, Water Rats) and Barry Otto (Australia, The Secret Life of Us).

"Surf films, like Westerns, are experiencing a renaissance. The best of the lot are unquestionably from Australia, and Newcastle is no exception. Newcastle is about the joy and fragility of adolescence." **** TIMEOUT NEW YORK

After a corker of an opening night premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival, Not Quite Hollywood burst onto the big screen on the Regional Digital Screen Network, Wednesday 17 September and at The Regent Theatre in Yarram, Saturday 20 September.

Not Quite Hollywood is the wild, wonderful, untold story of 'Ozploitation' films. In the 70s and 80s a uniquely antipodean wave of exploitation cinema swept the world. Shlocky, sexy and very funny, Ozploitation became one of the most prolific and successful periods in Australian filmmaking - and yet it rarely rates a mention in the official histories of cinema. Filled with outrageous anecdotes and lessons in maverick filmmaking, and featuring interviews with celebrity devotee Quentin Tarantino, Not Quite Hollywood is a fast-moving journey through a very Australian slice of genre cinema.

Writer/director Mark Hartley said, "These are the real stories from the people who were there in the cinematic trenches - including the wild, trailblazing mavericks who found private finance, snubbed their nose at authority, made their own rules and in the process introduced the car chase, karate kick, BMX bike and waterbed to Australian cinema … an unjustly forgotten cinematic era when our big-screen heroes were possessed with white-line fever, our heroines liberated and our truly death-defying stunt work just had to be seen to be believed!"

Debut feature director Hartley has officially been researching Not Quite Hollywood for the past 10 years, and has basically spent a lifetime watching, studying, researching and enjoying Aussie genre films.

Screen Australia's REGIONAL DIGITAL SCREEN NETWORK presented Son of a Lion for one night only Wednesday 27 August

Son of a Lion tells the story of 11-year-old Niaz Afridi (Niaz Khan Shinwari) who lives with his father Sher Alam Afridi (Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad) in a small town in northwest Pakistan, where for generations the local population have earned their living by producing weapons. It would seem that this is what the future holds for Niaz. But Niaz has different ambitions and dreams of being allowed to go to school. His longing for an education marks Niaz as an outsider amongst the other young people within his community. And when finally, he refuses to follow in his father's footsteps, pent-up conflicts erupt within his family.

Benjamin Gilmour's debut feature Son of a Lion is the surprise packet of the year. It has garnered enormous international and domestic acclaim wherever it has screened. The film spectacularly provides a sympathetic, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable insight into the world of the ethnic Pashtun in Pakistan.

Writer/director Benjamin Gilmour's audacious film was shot undercover in great secrecy and danger in the gun manufacturing town of Darra Adam Khel situated in Pakistan's North West Frontier.

The film shoot was pure guerrilla filmmaking. The tribal area in which the film was shot is completely out of bounds to foreigners so it was necessary to find relatively safe places to film. The cast was made up of local residents. The film's Executive Producer, Hayat Khan Shinwari acted as the film's "fixer". He selected many of the cast, his son playing the main role, his own mother playing the boy's grandmother and his business partner playing the boy's uncle.

Son of a Lion is a delight, a film about the relationship between fathers and sons and that thing called the generational shift which is the same the world over. The film possesses heartening warmth and is a finely tuned rendering of the goodness of humanity.

Screen Australia's REGIONAL DIGITAL SCREEN NETWORK presents Ten Empty in July!

After a ten-year absence 29 year old Elliot Christie (Daniel Frederiksen) reluctantly returns home for the christening of his new half-brother. His father Ross (Geoff Morrell) has re-married his late wife's sister Diane (Lucy Bell) and together they have borne a child, Cooper to whom Elliot is to be godfather. Elliot is dismayed to find his brother Brett (Tom Budge), once the larger-than-life youngster of the family, now a shell of his former self. Over the course of the weekend long-buried family secrets are unearthed and Elliot comes to terms with the fact that only if he stays and tackles the issues raised by his mothers' death will the family ever heal.

"Daniel Frederiksen's performance is nothing short of stunning; Montgomery Clift-style stunning." ABC 702

An exceptional supporting cast brings debut feature film director Anthony Hayes' and co-writer Brendan Cowell's down-to-earth script to an astute realisation on the big screen. Jack Thompson stars as Ross' best mate Bobby Thompson, Brendan Cowell (NOISE, LOVE MY WAY) as the loveable larrikin Shane Hackett and Blazey Best, in a feisty performance, as Diane's best friend Bernadette.

"We didn't think Australia had made a good father-and-son film for a long time and it was a subject about which we (Hayes and Cowell) both felt we could say something special and heartfelt. Ten Empty is about a disillusioned son's trip home, which is complicated when 10 years of family secrets explode over the course of a weekend. It is the story of an injured family on the road to repair" Hayes says.

Ten Empty delves behind the barbecues, beer and brick veneer of suburban Australia. It is a ghost story, a love story, a story about fathers and sons. Above all it is a story about families, grief, communication, love, hope, redemption and reconciliation.

"A powerful and deeply moving drama that resounds with honesty and reverberates with emotional truth." FILMINK

Australian thriller Cactus screened on the AFC's Regional Digital Screen Network

It is thrilling from the get go… Cactus is a well-crafted, well-shot road movie that honours the genre.
- Lisa Hensley, The Movie Show, SBS

To gain some much needed cash, John Kelly (Travis McMahon) accepts a job to kidnap and deliver professional gambler Eli Jones (David Lyons) to John's employers at an outback destination known only to him. For someone with no experience in this kind of caper, John meticulously plans the kidnapping, but as with most things in life he forgets you have to expect the unexpected. Foils come in the forms of Rosco (Bryan Brown), the district cop who is a law unto himself, and a hapless truckie, Thommo (Shane Jacobson). A long and dusty journey in a red, grunting 1972 Fairmont XA named Bonnie tests the endurance of both captor and captive. With the familiarity of their lives in the city far behind them, both men feel their differences melt as the heat of the endless bitumen pervades every fibre of their being.

Cactus is the debut feature from writer/director Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan. She worked on the script for over a year, workshopping each draft with her husband Florian Emmerich, who is also the film's cinematographer. Producer Paul Sullivan, who met Jasmine on a film set years before, joined the team. With pre-production well underway, a script was sent to Bryan Brown in the hope that he would accept a cameo role. Brown not only accepted the role of Rosco but also committed to the position of the film's executive producer. Brown also brought Shane Jacobson to the project in the role of Thommo, a laconic truckie who turns up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"What turned me on about this was the script," says Brown. "I found it fresh and original and there was a voice behind it I wanted to know about. It was a very male movie about a car and it's written and directed by a woman. Her female sensibility over the top of this very male thing gives it essence or a soul."

Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan adds: "To me Cactus is a road movie that asks questions about love, family, right and wrong, through the actions of its main character."

Shot over 23 days in Sydney, Bathurst, Wilcannia and Broken Hill, Cactus is a morality tale lightened by Holden vs Ford verbal stoushes. It is a film that captures the saturated colour of the changing moods of vast physical landscapes as well as the internal, private struggles etched into the faces of John and Eli.

Cactus was one of several new release Australian films that screened in May 2008 on the AFC's Regional Digital Screen Network.


Swan Lake Live via Satellite from the Sydney Opera House

This event was on Wednesday 9 April 2008

In a ground breaking partnership between ABC2 Live, the Australian Film Commission (AFC), The Australian Ballet and the Australia Council for the Arts, Graeme Murphy's internationally renowned interpretation of Swan Lake screened nationally, live via satellite on the AFC's Regional Digital Screen Network (RDSN) on Wednesday 9 April 2008.

Following a sell out season in Melbourne, audiences in Port Augusta, Yarram, Hervey Bay, Devonport, Katherine, Wagga Wagga, Singleton and Albany saw this spectacular arts event as it was performed in the Opera Theatre at the Sydney Opera House.

Swan Lake is an iconic ballet and Graeme Murphy's choreography dramatically communicates the passion and emotion of betrayal and unrequited love. This production has earned international critical and audience acclaim in London, Cardiff, Shanghai and Tokyo resulting in The Australian Ballet receiving the 2005 UK Critics' Circle Award for Best Foreign Dance Company. Additional awards include: Winner of four Helpmann Awards (2003), Winner of four Green Room Awards (2003) and the 2003 Mo Award Winner.

A constant driving force behind the success of Swan Lake is the Tchaikovsky score, one of the greatest ever composed for ballet: dramatic, colourful and intensely moving. Tchaikovsky's score together with performances from Principal Artists Kirsty Martin as Odette, Damien Welch as Prince and Olivia Bell as the Baroness von Rothbart, inspired audiences of all ages.

ABC2 Live captured the excitement of the event at stage level with cameras positioned in the front row. During intermission, the audiences were able to enjoy packaged interviews with Choreographer Graeme Murphy and the Principal Artists.

"ABC2 Live represents an important step in making live performance more accessible to all Australians. Taking a theatrical performance into the digital world is an exciting moment in the ABC's history. Working in partnership with the Australia Council for the Arts, we are delighted to be part of this landmark digital initiative," said Director of ABC TV Kim Dalton.

"The satellite broadcast of Swan Lake to regional audiences via the AFC's RDSN is an exciting example of how digital technology can transform our life experiences," said AFC Chief Executive, Chris Fitchett. "The AFC is thrilled to be partnering with ABC2 and The Australian Ballet to show Graeme Murphy's interpretation of this classic ballet on the big screen."

Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, David McAllister said, "The ABC2 Live programme is an exciting and important new initiative. The Ballet's previous collaboration with the AFC's Regional Digital Screen Network demonstrated the enthusiasm for the arts in regional areas. Now, thanks to this unique partnership and the new technology it exploits, we'll be able to reach an unprecedented number of Australians with a single performance."


The Black Balloon on the RDSN

After an amazing response at the Berlin Film Festival, including cheering, standing ovations and a Crystal Bear Award for Best Feature Film, the highly acclaimed Australian film The Black Balloon comes to Albany, Devonport, Hervey Bay, Katherine, Port Augusta, Singleton, Wagga Wagga and Yarram on the AFC's Regional Digital Screen Network.

The Black Balloon tells the story of the Mollison family Dad, Simon (ERIK THOMSON) is in the Army; Mum, Maggie (TONI COLLETTE) is very pregnant and sons Thomas (RHYS WAKEFIELD) and Charlie (LUKE FORD) have to find their feet again, as the family settles into a new home on the outskirts of Sydney. Their lives are driven by Simon's Army career and Charlie's autism. In a house full of Charlie's big personality, chaos, love, laughter and compassion, Thomas has difficulty finding his own space, especially when Jackie (GEMMA WARD) comes onto the scene and romance blossoms. Adolescent resentment, familial responsibility and genuine brotherly love boil away inside Thomas creating an explosive cocktail of emotions. However, Thomas comes to realise that when push comes to shove, his family means everything.

The Black Balloon is inspired by Director /co-writer Elissa Down's own experiences growing up in an army family, and is produced by Tristram Miall whose credits include the award winning films, Strictly Ballroom and Looking for Alibrandi. "I got the inspiration for The Black Balloon because I have three younger brothers, two of which have autism - so growing up was very eventful, crazy, funny and sometimes very sad. I always thought it would be a powerful story to tell," says Down.

"A knockout! One of the finest Australian films of recent years."
Lynden Barber, Limelight
"'s a wonderful film..full of humour, full of emotion…. Four and half stars"
David Stratton At the Movies ABC
"Four stars" Margaret Pomeranz At the Movies ABC

The Black Balloon (M) is one of several new release Australian films that will be screening regionally this year on the AFC's Regional Digital Screen Network. Bookings Essential. Visit The Black Balloon website at:



Opera Australia's Carmen seduced audiences across Australia

Opera Australia and the Australian Film Commission announced the first live transmission of an opera from the Sydney Opera House to regional cinemas across Australia.

On the evening of Wednesday 12 March 2008, Opera Australia's new production of Carmen was be transmitted via satellite from the Sydney Opera House Opera Theatre to eight regional cinemas that form the AFC's Regional Digital Screen Network in Albany (WA), Devonport (TAS), Hervey Bay (QLD), Yarram (VIC), Katherine (NT), Port Augusta (SA), Wagga Wagga and Singleton (NSW) as well as to live sites on the Sydney Opera House Forecourt and at Federation Square, Melbourne.

Opera on the Big Screen was screened free of charge to an audience of around 7000 people, with 4000 on the Sydney Opera House steps, 1000 at Federation Square and over 2000 in cinemas across Australia.

Adrian Collette, Chief Executive of Opera Australia said "Following the success of Opera Australia's inaugural live-site relay of La traviata to the Forecourt of the Sydney Opera House and to Federation Square in Melbourne, last March, we were keen to broaden the audience for this spectacular live event. Carmen is the ideal opera for first-timers and it is a great privilege to be able to present a relay of this wonderful production on screens throughout Australia. We are grateful to the Australian Film Commission for joining with us in presenting Carmen through its Regional Digital Screen Network."

Presented by Opera Australia and the Australian Film Commission in association with ABC Classic FM, Sydney Opera House and Federation Square.

Lachlan Buchanan (Jesse) in Newcastle.

Debra Ades (Debra) and Rebecca Breeds (Leah) in Newcastle.

Shane Jacobson (Reggie) and Xavier Samuel (Fergus) in Newcastle.

The cast of Newcastle.

Not Quite Hollywood

Niaz Khan Shinwari (as Niaz Afridi, the son) and Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad (as Sher Alam Afridi, the father) in Son of a Lion.

Niaz Khan Shinwari and Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad in the workshop.

Son of a Lion

Son of a Lion's writer/director Benjamin Gilmour received a Travel Grant to attend the Berlin International FIlm Festival

Ten Empty. (From left) Daniel Frederiksen as Elliot, Geoff Morrell as Ross and Tom Budge as Brett

Ten Empty. Daniel Frederiksen as Elliot

Ten Empty. (From left) Geoff Morrell as Ross_Lucy Bell as Diane_Blazey Best as Bernadette

Ten Empty. Lucy Bell as Diane

Bryan Brown (as Rosco) and Travis McMahon (as John Kelly) in the film Cactus. © Tony Mott

David Lyons (as Eli) and Travis McMahon (as John Kelly) in a scene from Cactus. © Florian Emmerich

Shane Jacobson (as Thommo) in Cactus © Florian Emmerich

Seymon Lily Eckert (as Katie) and Zoe Tuckwell-Smith (as Sammy) in Cactus. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Kirsty Martin and Damien Welch in the Australian Ballet's Swan Lake. (photo: Jim McFarlane)

Artists of The Australian Ballet's Swan Lake (photo: Jim McFarlane).

Toni Collette and Gemma Ward star in The Black Balloon.

Gemma Ward as Jackie and Rhys Wakefield as Thomas in The Black Balloon.

Carmen the opera. Photo: Branco Gaica

Carmen tempts Don Jose in Opera Australia's Carmen. (Photo by Branco Gaica)