12 Exciting Australian Films To Look Forward To In 2017
Including a Tropfest adaptation, a lot of Dev Patel, and Guy Pearce and Kylie Minogue in speedos.
2016 wasn’t a particularly strong year for Australian films at the box office with only Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and the kid-friendly sequel Red Dog: True Blue making much of an impact. Unlike most years, however — where people are only too eager and willing to call out the death of Australian film — it seems most didn’t seem too bothered.
The year prior had been the biggest ever thanks to Mad Max: Fury Road, The Dressmaker, Paper Planes and more. It also helps knowing that 2017 has a few titles just itching to break out and, as always, many more bubbling under the radar poised to hit festivals around the world and make stars of their casts and crews (even if nobody goes to see them at home).
Lion, dir. Garth Davis
The new year’s first big title is Lion, adapted from the true story of Saroo Brierley. The film, directed by Top of the Lake’s Garth Davis, is already a hot favourite to snag a bunch of Oscar nominations, and this uplifting tale of a young Indian-born Australian man using Google Earth to find the home he was taken from as a child is sure to be a big hit with audiences. Starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, and David Wenham, I’m excited to see this story from India to Tasmania and back again.
Lion will be in cinemas from January 9.
Hotel Mumbai, dir. Anthony Maras
Another local film with Dev Patel — soon enough we’ll be ‘adopting’ him as ‘our’ own. Little is known about his role in Hotel Mumbai, but it’s likely he will be abandoning his flawless Aussie accent. The film will see him star alongside American actor Armie Hammer in a dramatisation of the 2008 terrorist attacks at the Taj Mahal Hotel in India that killed 160 people (but not Brooke Satchwell). Aussie talent on display includes director Anthony Maras as well as actors Teresa Palmer and Tilda Cobham-Hervey.
Hotel Mumbai does not yet have an Australian release date.
Dance Academy: The Movie, dir. Jeffrey Walker
It’s the Dance Academy movie we’ve all been waiting for. And if you read that as sarcasm then clearly this movie isn’t for you. Dance Academy — based on the ABC TV series of the same name — is no joke, folks. It’s about time this generation got a Centre Stage all their own.
Dance Academy: The Movie will be in cinemas from April 6.
The Nightingale, dir. Jennifer Kent
Jennifer Kent showed everybody that we didn’t need the outback to frighten people when The Babadook shook everybody who watched it, even garnering Oscar buzz and a half-arsed American rip-off. Despite calls from America, she returned to Australia for her second film set in Tasmania of the 19th century. The Nightingale is about an Irish convict seeking revenge through the wilderness for the execution of her family. Kent has described The Nightingale as “not a horror movie”, but says it’s “a pretty horrific world.”
Hotel Mumbai does not yet have an Australian release date.
Jasper Jones, dir. Rachel Perkins
Australian filmmakers don’t adapt this country’s famous texts often enough for some unknown reason. It’s great then to finally see the story of mixed-race outcast Jasper Jones and bookish Charlie Bucktin come to the big screen thanks to Rachel Perkins — one of Australia’s finest and most celebrated directors — and stars Levi Miller, Aaron McGrath, Toni Collette, Dan Wyllie, and Angourie Rice. Plus, hey, at least kids will now have a movie they can watch when studying it at school. It’s a public service, really.
Jasper Jones will be in cinemas from March 2.
Flammable Children, dir. Stephan Elliot
I’m hoping we get to see Stephan Elliot’s latest in 2017 because, honestly, is there anything we need more right now than a big screen reunion of Neighbours cohorts Guy Pearce and Kylie Minogue set in the 1970s when swinging key parties were all the rage? This will hopefully be a return to Elliot’s flamboyant best (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) after the lacklustre 2011 comedy A Few Best Men, which is getting a sequel in March. Of that, I am less enthused.
Flammable Children does not yet have an Australian release date.
Berlin Syndrome, dir. Cate Shortland
Cate Shortland’s debut Somersault with Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington came out in what was arguably the worst year for Australian film ever. It won literally every award at the 2004 AFI Awards due to lack of competition. But after what could have easily been a lucky break, she proved her skills once more with the ABC TV movie The Silence in 2006 and again in 2012 with Lore — a film about the children of Nazi soldiers trekking across Germany. Her latest is a contemporary thriller about a woman (Teresa Palmer) trapped inside a one-night-stand’s apartment. It will premiere in the coming weeks at the Sundance Film Festival.
Berlin Syndrome does not yet have an Australian release date.
Cargo, dir. Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke
Adapted short films into feature-length can be a tricky prospect, especially when the original is such a tightly-wound seven-minute story. But Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling will be doing just that to their viral Tropfest hit Cargo. The short was about a man protecting his baby during a zombie outbreak and the adaptation will star Martin Freeman alongside David Gulpilil, Susie Porter and Anthony Hayes. It will be interesting to see how they expand upon the minimal story.
Cargo does not yet have an Australian release date.
Hounds of Love, dir. Ben Young
This grimy horror film premiered at the Venice Film Festival to incredible reviews as well as more than a few angry walk-outs. Confronting and violent, with an unexpected killer performance (in more ways than one) by Dale Kerrigan himself (Stephen Curry), Ben Young’s Hounds of Love is sure to be one of the most talked about films of the year and potentially the next Wolf Creek.
Hounds of Love will be in cinemas from March 31.
Jungle, dir. Greg McLean
Speaking of Wolf Creek, fresh off the success of the TV mini-series spin-off, director Greg McLean returns with this trip to the Amazon jungle as four travellers (one of whom is played by Daniel Radcliffe) descend into a nightmare and a fight for survival. Hopefully McLean has more success with the boy wizard than he did with Kevin Bacon — their 2016 collaboration The Darkness about an ancient Grand Canyon curse (?!?) bypassed Aussie cinemas altogether and was critically savaged.
Jungle does not yet have an Australian release date.
Breath, dir. Simon Baker
Simon Baker became a star as one of those affected crime solvers that boomed in the 2000s in The Mentalist, but now returns to Australia — sadly not to his Logie-winning home on E Street — to direct and star in this adaptation of Tim Winton’s best-selling novel. While oft-mythologised beach culture of the ‘70s has been well-covered — including The Turning, another Winton adaptation — the chance to see Baker’s debut as director as well as having The Kettering Incident’s Elizabeth Debicki on board with a major role make this a really interesting proposition.
Breath does not yet have an Australian release date.
Sweet Country, dir. Warwick Thornton
Since blowing everybody away with Samson & Delilah in 2009, Warwick Thornton has stuck predominantly to working as a cinematographer, directing the ghost-story documentary The Darkside, and off-screen art works. He returns in 2017 with Sweet Country about an Aboriginal stockman in the 1920s who kills a white man. Joined by 8MMM’s Hamilton Morris plus Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Bryan Brown, Sam Neill and Ningali Lawford-Wolf (you might remember her as the best part of Last Cab to Darwin), Thornton has shown he’s able to take advantage of the rich potential in his stories and this western should be no different.
Sweet Country does not yet have an Australian release date.
Glenn Dunks is a freelance writer from Melbourne. He also works as an editor and a film festival programmer while tweeting too much at @glenndunks.