Last Friday night I attended a special evening of Australian film at The Star Event Centre in Sydney, presented by the folks at P.R.O.M. (Formerly known as Popcorn Taxi). As with most of the punters in attendance on the night, I was there for one reason and one reason only: Quentin Tarantino. Not only did QT coin the phrase Ozploitation (a fact he repeats with pride throughout tonight’s event) but his love and knowledge of the genre surpasses most film historians, so who better to host an evening dedicated to two of his favourite Aussie Westerns?
After a lengthy wait, the sold out crowd are warmed up with a kick ass supercut paying tribute to QT’s body of work, fittingly soundtracked by the legendary Australian rockers The Angels. Check it out…
With a brief introduction, Tarantino is welcomed on stage with a whole lot of whooping and hollering, before introducing the first of the night’s films: 1978’s The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. The lights go down, the film projector whirs to life (shipped in especially at the director’s request) and the audience is transported to turn of the century Australia for Fred Schepisi’s racially charged tale of revenge.
I’d never seen Jimmie Blacksmith before, and going in expecting a shlocky B-grade effort, I was pleasantly surprised by what a well made film it was, even by today’s standards. Starting out as a drama of sorts, with Aboriginal youth Jimmie learning the harsh realities of life as an adult in a white man’s world, the film changes gears about a third of the way through, resulting in an audible reaction from tonight’s audience (while Tarantino chuckles with glee from his reserved seating area). I won’t ruin the surprise for those who haven’t seen the film, but I thoroughly urge you to seek it out.
When Tarantino is later joined on stage by Schepisi and novelist Thomas Keaneally, its clear the director is not only chuffed with the positive reaction to his film choice, but also humbled to be interviewing the filmmakers behind it, in front of an Aussie audience no less. As the three men discuss the ins and outs of Australian cinema of the 1970s, I glance around at the mostly young audience, clearly lapping up every word, and suddenly it hits me: this is Tarantino’s very own film school. We are basically being educated about cinema in our own country, by someone who isn’t even from here. It stirs up feelings of patriotism, and makes you proud of the types of films we’ve made, and continue to make, despite what all the haters say.
Its this feeling that carries the audience through the remainder of the evening, as our host emplores us to stick it out for the second film: the deeply flawed but thoroughly entertaining Mad Dog Morgan. Just like the well documented antics of Dennis Hopper on the set of the movie, its an experience best enjoyed in a state of relative inebriation, something tonight’s audience fully understands as they begin a mass exodus to the bar during the opening credits.
By the time the evening comes to a close it’s well after midnight, but its clear that everyone in the room is appreciative of what the auteur director has given them: A new appreciation of what makes our local industry great, and a thirst to see more films like the ones screened tonight. If Mr. Tarantino had been my film lecturer back at Uni, I might have been more inclined to complete my assignments on time.
If you’re fan of events like these, be sure to like P.R.O.M. on Facebook, as they’ve promised big things on the horizon.
Photo Credit: Will Reichelt
Video Credit: Jason Azcona