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It will be unique: Margaret Pomeranz talking on stage about a film with her co-critic for the past 25 + years, David Stratton, in it . . . not only in it but the subject of it. The special Q&A will be held prior to the screening of David Stratton: A Cinematic Life at the Orpheum Picture Palace in Cremorne, Sydney, on Tuesday, February 28, from 6.30pm (tix $25).

The special screening and Q&A precedes the general release of the film around Australia on March 9, 2017. (Our reviews of the film will be published on the day.) David may have stepped down from his role as co-critic with Margaret on ABC TV, but he hasn’t stopped watching movies.

“I can’t imagine a life without film,” says the English-born David. “I try to see a film every day. At least one.”

Film is David’s life. Filed in a ring binder labeled 1946 on a shelf in his office he can, without delay, extract a one-page “review” he wrote as a seven-year old after seeing the Australian film The Overlanders. At last count he’s seen 25,254 films and reviewed most of them. More than 1,000 were printed in the international film trade magazine Variety.

Australia gave David the opportunity to turn his passion for cinema into a profession when he was offered the job of Sydney Film Festival director. His brother Roger says their father was “beside himself with fury”: David was meant to return to England to run the family grocery business. He’d come to Australia in 1963 as a “Ten Pound Pom”, a scheme aimed at boosting migration, but had intended to stay only for the obligatory two years.

At that time the Australian film industry was practically non-existent but within a few years a growing band of courageous Australians was channelling their enthusiasm for storytelling into an extraordinary body of work. David helped champion them and their films, which he became more and more personally affected by.

An example: soon after arriving he had gone looking for the Australian heroism he’d seen on screen. But “I didn’t feel like a tourist, I felt a bit nervous”. Several years later he recognized himself in the lead character of the schoolteacher in Wake In Fright (1971), who descends into madness after two days in an outback town.

As David fell in love with Australian cinema, it helped him understand himself and his adopted country. The country eventually fell in love with him too as a result of his weekly appearances on television alongside Margaret Pomeranz, first on SBS and latterly on ABC.

In this story of Australian cinema, told through David’s particular gaze, he explores the films most important to him and Australia and analyses their emotional punch. Included are interviews with Australia’s biggest movie greats: the actors Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill, Rachel Griffiths, Eric Bana, Jacki Weaver; and the directors Gillian Armstrong, George Miller, Fred Schepisi, Bruce Beresford, David Michôd and Warwick Thornton. To name a few of the 52. They talk about their work, the films that have most affected them – and David.

David reveals why he identified with the boy in Careful He Might Hear You and expounds on his theory on the distinctiveness of Australian crime films. He highlights the importance of landscape and explains his about-turn on The Castle. He revisits the Romper Stomper controversy and describes how Head On gave him a window into a contemporary Australia he’d never seen before. He drills down into how mainstream Australia has come to understand the ongoing impact of colonization through films like Jedda and Samson & Delilah – and the injustice of the events surrounding the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain.

Published February 16, 2017

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David Stratton & Margaret Pomeranz


A compelling personal journey with David Stratton, as he relates the fascinating development of our cinema history. David guides us from his boyhood cinema experience of Australia in England, where he saw the first images of this strange and exotic landscape via the medium of film, to his migration to Australia as a ‘ten pound pom’ in 1963 and onto his present day reflections on the iconic themes that run through our cinematic legacy. All of this reflects a passionate engagement in a uniquely Australian medium. Parallel and at the heart of the series is the story of an industry whose growing pains David has witnessed over a lifetime. Alongside David, the protagonists of this history are the giants of Australian cinema – both behind the camera and in front of it.

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