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Peter Weir – Wherefore Weir?


I wanted to review a film this week, but I looked at what was screening at my local cinema — White House Down, Riddick, Now You See Me, One Direction and Smurfs 2

This dreary line-up had me in despair.   I stood outside the cinema, a dejected figure in the rain and raised my tear-streaked face to the sky, crying “Weir! Weir!”  (See Marlon Brando in a Streetcar Named Desire.)

OK! I’ve got a softish spot for Australian filmmaker, Peter Weir who in my view is a cinematic artist.  You’ll know many of his later films Picnic at Hanging Rock, Gallipoli, Witness, Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show, Master and Commander…  His films contain mystery, unhappy endings, wonderings, lovely words and pictures.  Many of the scenes in his films have stayed with me.  I can still see the wind blowing over the wheat fields in Witness for example.    He also, (rare these days) gets his casting bang on.   He’d have never cast Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, for example.

I wonder where the wonderful Mr. Weir is?  In fact, where have all the ‘Weirs of the world’ gone?  I recently noted Mr Weir didn’t rate a mention in the world’s best directors of all time.  Was it because Australia is usually forgotten in the international cultural landscape? Do I need to remind anyone that the Australian film industry was amongst earliest and most up-and-comingness of any country, USA included. (See The Story of the Kelly Gang, the first narrative feature film produced in 1906.)

I know it’s all about the money, that films are now backed by global corporations who want a ‘safe bet’ and a box office star.  Where original film scripts and stories are re-worked, often by several screenwriters, until they’re all basically the same colour of BLEAH!  Where a good idea is lured down cul de sac and quietly killed by a board-of-this and a committee-of-that.

The Australian Film industry has followed the trend.   If you’re an independent ‘newbie’ you’ve got more chance of spotting a UFO and getting the incumbent alien to fund you than getting a penny out any ‘funding body’.   This policy has followed through to all the art forms; try asking  a local artist, writer, poet or musician when was the last time they were fiscally supported?

All this is an anathema to genuine artistic expression, because art needs both room and financial support to groove AND often Brilliance comes from the least expected sources.

So this week, in protest, I am NOT posting a film review.   I am standing up for Australian filmmakers  (in fact, all artists, writers, poets and musicians) who need to be financially supported in the pursuit of their own unique voices and talent (me included)!



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