The official history of Australia begins with the arrival of a fleet of British sailing ships in 1788 carrying prisoners who will be the first whites to reside on this “fatal shore,” following the coming of the Aborigines forty to sixty thousand years earlier. This remarkable event came about because England could no longer send its undesirables to the American colonies. Revolution was in the air and the Crown needed to exercise its punitive power. Today in Australia, it is unpopular in polite circles to speak of this inauspicious beginning for what is now a vibrant society in the Pacific, and it is still more distasteful to discuss the fate of the Aborigines since the arrival of the criminals. There is a Hollywood movie about the prison culture of Sydney called Botany Bay, starring Alan Ladd.
To my surprise, I could find very few movies that treat the flourishing of the colonial cities that ring the coastline of Australia at wide intervals. In the Baz Luhrmann film, Australia (2008), there is a little bit to be learned about the city of Darwin on the north coast.
Symbolized by the dramatic outlines of the 1973 Sydney Opera House (calling to mind the white sails of British ships), this is a society that has enthusiastically embraced the agendas of Western Civilization. In the years from 1971 through the 1980s, there was a surge of film activity that came to be called the Australian Film Renaissance. It began unofficially with Walkabout (1971) and fostered a tradition of filmmaking that brought a fresh look at Australia’s past and present. Some of these works were serious and some were not.