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ANZAC Day, on the 25th of April every year, marks the anniversary of the first major military action by Australian and New Zealand forces during World War I. Each year, we remember those who fought at Gallipoli, and honour ANZACs both past and present. Our picks for the long weekend include three films that celebrate the unique ANZAC spirit: The Telegram Man; Thanks Girls and Goodbye and Nancy Wake: Gestapo’s Most Wanted.
Adapted from John Boyne’s short story, James Francis Khehtie’s award-winning short film The Telegram Man tells the story of a telegram man in a small rural New South Wales town during World War II, who is tasked with the duty of bringing families the telegrams informing them that their son, husband, brother or father would not be coming home. With powerful performances by Australian screen legends Jack Thompson, Gary Sweet and Sigrid Thornton, the film is poignant look at the devastation of war away from the battlefield. The Telegram Man has found extraordinary success locally, and at festivals around the world, winning the 2011 BAFTA LA Prize and nominated for an Australian Academy Award. Most notably, the film was screened to a crowd of 10,500 at the 2015 Centenary ANZAC Day Commemoration in Gallipoli, following its successful screenings to over 16,000 people just prior to the Dawn Services at the 2012 – 2014 Commemorations. It will be played again at this year’s Commemoration.
In 1942, in the shadow of World War II, the Australian government established the Australian Women’s Land Army in an effort to minimise the loss of labour on farmlands. Thanks Girls and Goodbye shares the story of how over 7,000 women came together to replace the increasing number of men going to the front. For three years these women tilled, sowed and harvested to feed a nation at war. When the war ended in 1945 and the men returned to their jobs, the Land Army women had no choice but to return to their homes as wives and mothers once more. But the experience had permanently changed their expectations of what women were able to do, and their roles in a developing nation. Directors Sue Maslin and Sue Hardisty use a combination of interviews with former Land Army women, home movies and photographs to give an engaging account of the contribution these women had to the sustainability of Australia at a perilous time. Although this strong group of women were never formally recognised by the RSL or in the history books, this film commemorates them and their service to modern Australia.
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Nancy Wake rose through the British service ranks to become part of Winston Churchill’s secret spy army during the Second World War. Nancy Wake: Gestapo’s Most Wanted chronicles the life of the daring allied spy and elusive femme fatale, as she became the Nazis’ most wanted person, with a 5 million Franc price on her head. After moving from Wellington to Sydney with her family in 1914, Nancy Wake ran away from home and travelled to Europe to study journalism. Witnessing the birth of the Nazi movement, she travelled to Paris to join the French Resistance, where she was known by the Gestapo as The White Mouse due to her ability to elude capture. After fleeing France and returning to London to join the Special Operations Executive, Nancy became fundamental in recruiting members to the French guerrilla resistance group the Maquis. Her decorated yet dangerous past is revealed in this docudrama biopic, with director Mike Smith using dramatization and interviews with her closest confidants to bring her incredible story to life.
In addition to commemorating our fallen diggers, on ANZAC Day we also give thanks for the freedom Australians and New Zealanders share because of their efforts, and celebrate the ANZAC spirit of mateship, tolerance and equality. Two great films highlighting Australia’s national identity include The Matilda Candidate and Australia Daze. Independent filmmaker Curtis Levey is on a mission, running for the Australian Senate on a single ticket to make the folksong ‘Waltzing Matilda’ the new national anthem. The Matilda Candidate follows his exploits as he embraces our sense of patriotism and strives to unite Australians in one voice through this rousing, popular song. Australia Daze is an authentic, kaleidoscopic, entertaining and critical portrait of a nation. The film reveals the thoughts and attitudes of ordinary Australians and way they see themselves, each other and the future.
Be sure to check out one of these great films on Beamafilm this ANZAC day weekend.