Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
John Hughes’ documentary about dissent in Cold War-era Australia weaves recollection, historical record, the filmmaker’s own earlier work on the subject, and an abundance of archival film into a timely commentary on the challenges facing oppositional voices in dark times. The Melbourne Realists were filmmakers during the late 40s and early 50s, supporting the labour movement, campaigning for state housing and attempting to give Australia a role in international peace campaigns. No matter how staged they appear, their films, seen now, provide unmistakable evidence of poverty and miserable living conditions in the Lucky Country in the postwar years. The Realists were necessarily involved in film exhibition too, and introduced European and Soviet cinema to Australian audiences through the Film Society movement and the Melbourne Film Festival, Australasia’s oldest, founded in 1952. New Zealand’s Film Societies, turning 60 this year, likewise grew from the Workers’ Education movement. This fascinating film invites us to consider what we’ve all made of that activist legacy.