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The Parkes telescope [The Dish] – with its three Australian operatives Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill), Mitch (Kevin Harrington) and Glenn (Tom Long) – takes centre stage in the role of transmitting the television pictures from Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon in July 1969. This is an incident not without mishap, but with the help of NASA’s man on the spot, Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton), and the local community, headed by the Mayor (Roy Billing), the big event is handled impeccably. And in true Australian style. Or should that read ‘but’ in true Australian …er…style. True story. Mostly.

Nominated for an AFI Best Film Award in 2001*, The Dish remains a favourite Australian film. Still treading that fine line between ridicule and affectionate caricature of their characters – as they did in The Castle – the Working Dog team has accomplished a miraculous fusion of Big Story with Little Folk (much credit to Rob Sitch’s direction). This fact based yarn about the Moon landing (omitting some really bizarre facts like the then Mayor’s real name being Cec Moon), explores how the event placed a small community and some ordinary people onto the stage at one of mankind’s greatest, most uplifting (literally) moments.

As Louise says in her review, "This is rural Australia in the late sixties, and the openness of the landscape and the feeling of isolation is well observed and portrayed. My toes were tapping full time with tunes like Good Morning Starshine, The Real Thing and Classical Gas, and whether you were around in the late sixties or not, you'll enjoy the trip. Integration of actual news footage sets up the perspective, and the climactic moon landing scenes generate a sense of overwhelming pride and achievement."

The audio commentary by Rob Sitch and Santo Cilauro concentrates on the directing and background research aspects. It’s evident that Rob and Santo had a great affection for the Australian of the period, as well as for their story. The detail that served them in making the film adds depth to the enjoyment of the film in retrospect. It’s anecdotal, too, and easy to listen. The soundtrack is nicely balanced with the commentary, giving us that sense of watching the film with these two blokes.

Casting and music are the focus of commentary by Jane Kennedy and Tom Gleisner; the two different commentary tracks on this DVD underscore the expansive collaborative nature of the production. This second commentary is a great bookend to the first. Evidently Working Dog had thought through the detail and the participants deliver a fascinating, detailed infrastructure.

Those interested in the music will note how composer Edmund Choi was a suggestion from Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein; Choi did the music for Working Dog’s The Castle’s US version. The Australian original version was scored by Craig Harnath.)

The Dish on The Dish featurette (not listed on the DVD slick) is a soft edge doco on the film, filled with clips from the film and grabs from the filmmakers. It’s a short version of the long-form commentaries with some cast interview grabs, like a paraphrase. Useful for that, anyway.

And I really like the stills feature: you can flip through the stills with a aeries of clicks and get a fun sense of the film’s mood.
Andrew L. Urban

*The nominations werte announced on October 13, 2001; The Dish opened in Australian on October 19, 2000. The 2001 awards were presented in November 2001. The film is edited by the 2001 Best Editor winner, Jill Bilcock for Moulin Rouge.

Published: November 22, 2001

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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia



CAST: Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long, Patrick Warburton, Genevieve Mooy, Tayler Kane, Roy Billing, Bille Brown


RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes (feature only)


DVD RELEASE: April 12, 2001

Two audio commentaries: 1) Rob Sitch & Santo Cilauro, 2) Jane Kennedy & Tom Gleisner; The Dish on The Dish featurette; storyboards, NASA archival footage; Apollo 11 diary; theatrical trailer; cast and crew biographies; English subtitles; Dolby 5.1 and 2.0, widescreen presentation

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