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:: Into The Shadows

This is a frank and interesting documentary about the Australian film industry‘s struggle for survival. Many of the issues surrounding the state of the Australian film industry are encapsulated in 'Into The Shadows’, a compelling and cheaply produced documentary from writer/ director Anthony Scarano. He tackles a subject which has been on the minds of many observers. Consequently, he gathered thoughts from several key players. Scarano compiles an impressive cross-section of views from exhibitors, distributors, actors, writers, directors and other industry folk keen to put in their two bob's worth.

The film covers a broad range of issues but narrows the debate by focusing particularly on the decline of independent cinemas in Australia, discussing the closure of venues such as the Lumiere in Melbourne and the Valhalla in Sydney, in the context of the rise of multiplex giants such as Village and Hoyts. Of particular note is that Scarano was inspired to make his film by the closure of Canberra's Electric Shadows. His grandfather was a projectionist at Electric Shadows, which was run by Andrew Pike, film producer, distributor, historian and one of the industry's most passionate campaigners. Pike appears in the film alongside directors Bruce Beresford, Scott Hicks, George Miller, Robert Connolly and Brendan Cowell, all of whom have tales of the perseverance needed to pursue a career here. Also, before he shot Mao's Last Dancer, Beresford hadn't made a film here in thirteen years.

But if it's hard to make films here, it's even harder to sell them. The collapse of the independent circuit hasn't helped. Into the Shadows looks nostalgically on the time when Pike and other arthouse pioneers such as Sydney's Chris Kiely and Melbourne's Anthony Zeccola and Natalie Miller had the market in small independent and foreign-language films to themselves.

A couple of highlights are one pundit‘s point of describing the session time screens at multiplex cinemas as like an “the airline departure/arrivals board”, as well as the words of 'Kenny’ director Clayton Jacobson, who explained that even though his film was cheaply made and was a huge success at the box office, the experience nonetheless left him $250,000 in debt. That’s as poignant a point one could make.

Into the Shadows offers no real solutions, of course, but Scarano provides a good whack of optimism, seeing hope for the future partly by reflecting on stalwarts of the past who fought tooth and nail for venues to screen their films. It's good, interesting viewing.