After two posts in this short series on New England film, the difficulties of defining a New England film and indeed New England should be clear.
What will be less clear is just how many New England films there are.
Australian writer D’Arcy Niland was born at Glen Innes on October 20, 1917.
At the Sacred Heart convent, one of the Sisters of St Joseph encouraged his interest in writing.
Niland’s 1955 book The Shiralee, the story of an itinerant worker, was based on his own experiences. In 1957, the book was turned into an Ealing Studio film of the same name starring Peter Finch.
So we have a film partly shot in New England based on a story by a New England writer about aspects of New England life. Sadly, the 1987 mini-series starring Bryan Brown was turned into a South Australian story.
Another New England story is the 1977 film The Picture Show Man. Filmed largely on the Liverpool Plains and in the Clarence, the film is based on the memoirs of Lyle Penn whose father was a travelling film exhibitor operating out of Tamworth. While dramatised by the introduction of Rod Taylor as the American rival, the film remains a New England story filmed in New England.
The year The Picture Show Man was released, filming began under the direction of Fred Schepisi on the 1978 film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith.
Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Keneally, a writer with considerable New England connections, the story is a fictionalised version of the events surrounding the final days of Jimmy Governor and his brother Joe. The story spans more widely than New England, but many key events took place here, with a significant proportion of the filming carried out on locality.
The film premiered simultaneously in Armidale and Melbourne.
Beneath Clouds (2002) is very different. It tells the story of Lena, the light-skinned daughter of an Aboriginal mother and Irish father and Vaughn, a Murri boy doing time in a minimum security prison in the north-west.
This was Aboriginal director Ivan Sen’s first feature film. Growing up in Inverell, Sen’s mother was Aboriginal and his father Croatian. The film reflects some of his own experiences.
In my next column, I will continue the story of New England film, but start bringing in art and literature to better show you some of the changing texture of New England life and culture.
Jim Belshaw’s email is email@example.com. He blogs at http://newenglandaustralia.blogspot.com.au/ (New England life) and http://newenglandhistory.blogspot.com.au/ (New England history)
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