Forgotten film could reveal new insights into post war Australia

March 9, 2016

Associate Professor Mick Broderick

Associate Professor Mick Broderick wants to see amatuer footage shot between 1946 and 1980

A research project co-led by a Murdoch University academic could reveal new insights into Australian life and culture from the 1940s to the 1980s.

As part of a four year project, Associate Professor Mick Broderick from the School of Arts will trawl through thousands of hours of archival film which documents Australia’s role in the development of British nuclear devices and their delivery systems after World War Two.

And he is appealing to anyone with amateur footage, or knowledge of forgotten institutional collections from that time period to get in touch.

“This footage could reveal important information about our heritage in a time period often associated with Australian cultural cringe,” said Professor Broderick.

“Post war, Australia was awash with British and American screen imports and Australians consumed more material from these foreign sources than from our own. As a result – alongside material scarcities and cheaper international content – there were not a lot of local feature films or documentaries being made here in the immediate post war period, compared with the decades before and after. But our film industry remained viable due to these other, forgotten industrial, scientific and amateur films.

“The hundreds, if not thousands, of archived films we will be viewing and annotating, plus footage from individuals, could help us open this world up to new audiences both here and abroad. We can reclaim this forgotten history.”

Professor Broderick will mostly be investigating non fiction film archives that depict the development of British nuclear weapons in Australia from 1952 to 1963. The Woomera rocket range, and its later use as a space exploration centre from 1949 to 1980, will also be examined.

He said the footage could range from something as banal as a 16mm film showing the tail fin of a rocket for six minutes or as profound as film of ‘first contact’ Indigenous people living in remote areas of south, west and northern Australia.

“These films will provide us with information on a huge range of areas including topography, infrastructure, fashion, technologies and societal norms of the era,” he said. “Recording these broad cultural aspects of Australian history and heritage would not have been the intention of the filmmakers, but we anticipate the new analysis of such footage will reveal many happy ‘accidents’.”

When the project is complete, a dedicated Vimeo channel will be established to share the forgotten film with the public. An international exhibition and conference will also be held to showcase this Australian ‘utilitarian’ film making.

The study, which also involves researchers from Canberra and Monash Universities, has been funded by a $363,000 Australian Research Council Discovery grant.

If you have footage from this post war time period (1946-80)or know of organisations and work places that do, please contact Professor Broderick on m.broderick@murdoch.edu.au.

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