UPDATE 12/05/2020: For obvious reasons, this year’s Menzies Screenings were all cancelled, and the series postponed. All things going well, I hope to be able to present an extended version of this themed screening series at the Menzies Australia Institute in 2020/21.
Delayed slightly by a hefty first term workload (and two bouts of UCU strike action), I’m pleased to announce that the Menzies Screening Series is returning to the Menzies Australia Institute at King’s College London for a trio of events in early 2020.
Following on from explorations of Australia within a transnational context, and cinema’s role in perpetuating and solidifying settler colonial regimes in Australia and beyond, this year’s Menzies Screening Series seeks to re-centre Indigenous narratives that are often marginalised within settler conceptions of Australian history.
In doing so, the 2019/20 series marks the anniversary of the first voyage of Captain James Cook, whose arrival in the Pacific – aboard the HMS Endeavour – would prove fateful for many lands and many peoples. The particular nature of 250th celebrations in both Australia and New Zealand has caused a great deal of consternation, both from Indigenous groups, and within the broader population.
In an effort to revisit some of the myths about Cook’s ‘discovery’ of Australia, as well as other dominant versions of Australian history, this year’s screening series presents a selection of films that revise and re-frame approaches to Australia’s past. From reversals of the ‘discovery’ narrative, to Indigenous perspectives on Australian history, culture and society, this series places some of the core narratives of Australia’s settler colonial nationhood under the microscope.
The series begins on March 24 with two short films that offer very different reappraisals of the ‘Discovery’ narrative central to Cook’s arrival and the subsequent settlement of the Australian continent. Penny McDonald’s documentary Too Many Captain Cooks (1989), sees Rembarrnga artist and storyteller Paddy Fordham Wainburranga recount his version of the Cook story, a complex interweaving of black and white ‘dreaming’ in which Australia is seen as having had many Cook-like figures throughout its history. Also screening in the first session is the classic role-reversal satire, Babakiueria (d. Don Featherstone, 1986), in which Aboriginal Australians invade and colonise a land populated by an inferior race of white natives.
The second screening (April 21) centres on the theme of ‘Commemoration’ and highlights the overlooked contribution of Indigenous soldiers in WWI in the lead-up to Anzac Day (April 25th). Black Anzac (d. Tim Anastasi, 2018) documents settler street artist Hego’s journey to expose this undertold story of Australian history.
The third and final screening of the 2019/20 series focuses on ‘Knowledge’, and takes place on May 14 to coincide the Australian Studies in Britain and Ireland Symposium at KCL the following day. This final screening offers a rare chance to see Warwick Thornton’s We Don’t Need a Map (2017), a provocative and poetic essay film that traces Australia’s complex relationship to the Southern Cross.
As with previous series, all screenings will be held at the Strand campus of King’s College London, and will begin with a short contextual introduction by myself, followed by the film, and an open group discussion. Screenings are free, and open to all, but advance booking is necessary.