CANCELLED: The 2019/20 Menzies Screenings – due to commence in March 2020 – were cancelled due to the Covid-19 epidemic. The series will return, in some form, in 2020/21.
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, the 2019/20 Menzies Screening Series seeks to re-centre Indigenous narratives that are often marginalised within settler conceptions of Australian history.
In doing so, the 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.
Hosted at King’s College London’s Menzies Australia Institute, I curate and introduce each session with a particular critical and contextual focus, with a relaxed, salon-style discussion following the film.
The three screenings in the 2019/20 Menzies Screening Series are as follows:
Menzies Screening #1 – ‘Discovery’
Too Many Captain Cooks (d. Penny McDonald, 1989)
+ Babakiueria (d. Don Featherstone, 1986)
24 March 2020
Captain James Cook’s arrival in the Pacific aboard the HMS Endeavour would prove fateful (and fatal) for many lands and many peoples. And with controversial celebrations already underway to mark the 250th anniversary of his first Pacific voyage, this year’s Menzies Screening series offers a chance to rethink some of the myths (and mythologising) about Australia’s settler past, beginning with two films that re-imagine settler narratives (and histories) of Cook’s ‘discovery’ of Australia.
Directed by settler filmmaker Penny McDonald, Too Many Captain Cooks (1989) sees Rembarrnga artist and storyteller Paddy Fordham Wainburranga describe his bark painting of the same name. In recounting his version of the Cook story, Wainburranga offers a complex interweaving of black and white ‘dreaming’ in which Australia is seen as having had many Cook-like figures throughout its history.
Taking a rather different approach to the ‘discovery’ narrative is Babakiueria (d. Don Featherstone, 1986), a satirical role-reversal in which Aboriginal Australians invade and colonise a land populated by an inferior race of white natives. Through a subversive, comic reversal of Indigenous-Settler relations, the film makes a succession of sharp observations about the contemporary treatment of Australia’s First Nations populations.
[ Book Tickets ]
Menzies Screening #2 – ‘Commemoration’
(d. Tim Anastasi, 2018)
21 April 2020
In the lead-up to Anzac Day (April 25th) – Australia’s national day of remembrance – this second screening tackles one of foundational moments of Australia’s national identity, its participation on the European battlegrounds of World War One.
Highlighting the overlooked contribution of Indigenous soldiers in WWI, Black Anzac (d. Tim Anastasi, 2018) documents settler street artist Hego’s journey to expose this undertold story of Australian history. From a colossal wheatpaste mural in Redfern depicting Ngarrindjeri soldier Alfred Cameron Jr, to his efforts to place the soldier ‘in country’ via a second mural at Meningie, South Australia, Hego’s work demonstrates the positive potential of art to reshape historical narratives, and bring communities together.
[ Book Tickets ]
Menzies Screening #3 – ‘Knowledge’
We Don’t Need A Map
(d. Warwick Thornton, 2017)
14 May 2020
The final screening of the 19/20 series is timed to coincide with the Australian Studies in Britain and Ireland Symposium (May 15 at KCL), and seeks to reorient our understandings of an emblematic icon of Australian identity and nationhood.
Commissioned as part of NITV’s ‘Moment in History’ initiative, Warwick Thornton’s We Don’t Need a Map (2017) traces Australia’s complex relationship to the Southern Cross. Ever since colonisation, this most famous constellation in the southern hemisphere has been claimed, appropriated and hotly-contested, but its meaning for Aboriginal people is deeply spiritual, and largely unknown by settler Australians. Thornton, director of Samson and Delilah and Sweet Country, and one of Australia’s leading film-makers, tackles this fiery subject head on in a bold, provocative and poetic essay-film.
[ Book Tickets ]
The 2019/20 Menzies Screening Series is curated and presented by Dr Stephen Morgan for the Menzies Australia Institute at King’s College London, 24 March – 14 May 2020.