Movie review: David Stratton: A Cinematic Life

David Stratton

Film Critic David Stratton’s life and career is laid bare in a star studded documentary about the evolution of the Australian film industry and a personal look into David’s life. We sent along our very own Film Critic, Sebastian Briguglio, to take a peak into David’s passion for film, his dry humour and the struggles of the film scene here in Australia.

I had the absolute pleasure of attending an early screening of a documentary called ‘David Stratton: A Cinematic Life’ in the last week and let me tell you, I have never been so proud to be an Australian as I have when watching this film. To see the struggles of the pioneers of early Australian film and the influence they made to cinema as a whole was nothing short of an inspiration.

The story it tells is a very simple one, we follow renown film critic (Host of ‘At the Movies’) David Stratton as he made his journey from across the pond to start a life for himself in Australia. We relive his life travels, touching on his directing of the Sydney Film Festival for seventeen years to his influence over the film classification board of Australia – all the while keeping a firm focus on the benchmark points in our rich cinematic history.

We are spoiled with a star studded ensemble of Australian silver screen icons, ranging from Eric Bana, Jack Thompson, Nicole Kidman and Sam Neil. All of whom offer insider stories of past films or their relationship with Stratton himself over the years – some good and some less than joyous in their recollection. They all however tell the same story of how the firm restraints on the Australian film scene held a suppressive grasp on what should have been a flourishing international market – but, like the forging of diamonds through pressure, these restraints also lead to the crafting of some truly fantastic work by our local talents.

Calling to example of classics like ‘Wake in Fright’ – we are shown how our early directors had to take minuscule budgets and run with it, while comparatively other markets that were pouring big dollars into less loved projects. For those involved in our industry it truly became a labour of love and in typical Australian fashion our talent were forced to roll up their sleeves and get the job done, turning a high portion of our earlier pieces into absolute work passion – each one mentioned in this film capturing the heart and soul of not just those involved, but the nation as a whole.

Stratton’s piece is nothing short of a celebration of Australian film, however that is not the main story going on here – this film is truly about the ‘identity’ of a nation, and how does the rest of the world get a chance to view us through what we have put out as a culture. Whether you are a migrant, a first fleet descendant or an indigenous Australian- what does our film say about you and your story. This grasp for cultural identity is something that seemingly plays close to Stratton’s heart as he delves into how he truly came to understand what it meant to belong through a study of our films.

I can easily recommend this film for anyone who either wants a more in depth look at the state of Australian cinema, or someone in search of a truly unique Australian story of perseverance – this film offers both in spades.

In cinemas nationally 9 March 2017.

The Retiree has 10x in-season double pass to giveaway – enter here.


ABOUT Sebastian

He co-hosts a comedic and sometimes colourful film review Podcast called Second Take.
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Alana Lowes
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