Among the most long-established in the world, the cinema of Australia and New Zealand has brought a fresh vigor and enthusiasm to the new millennium. It’s history is honoured and recognised not only by professionals within the industry but by international critics and audiences - for its creativity, freshness and sense of humour.

Australian cinema was born in 1896 when Australian Walter Barnett met Frenchman Marius Sestier and suggested they form a partnership in Australia. Together they filmed the bays and beaches of Sydney Harbour and the famous Melbourne Cup horse race.

In the early 1900s, the Salvation Army in Melbourne used the Lumiere process to make what cinema historian Eric Reade described as "the first feature length film in history," a 3000-foot biblical epic entitled Soldiers of the Cross. In the twenty years following the 1906 release of The Story of the Kelly Gang, Australia became the most important producer of films in the world, accounting for about 150 feature-length films.

The acknowledged father of New Zealand cinema, Rudall Hayward, first came to prominence in the early 1920s and produced Rewi's Last Stand in 1925. By the end of the decade, the country's cinema industry began to decline and lay dormant for over forty years. By 1930, 99% of films screened in Australia and New Zealand came from America. Then in 1955, came Australia's first film in Technicolour, Jedda, the stars of which were Aborigines.

From the 1970s, Australian and New Zealand cinema enjoyed international acclaim due to the new wave of film-makers such as George Miller, Peter Weir, Roger Donaldson, Geoff Murphy, Vincent Ward, Richard Franklin, Bruce Beresford, and Richard Lowenstein. In 1978, thirteen Australian films were shown at the International Film Festival at Cannes, the outcome of a dedicated film export policy. In 1984, Vincent Ward's Vigil became the first New Zealand film in competition at Cannes.


A BRIEF HISTORY OF AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND CINEMA