The Land Down Under is one of those destinations that appears on most bucket lists. Over the years, the big screen has been responsible for perpetuating a variety of myths about life in Australia, from the larger than life Crocodile Dundee franchise to Rabbit Proof Fence to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
All are great movies in their own way, but each of them presents some Australian stereotypes that are getting a little worn around the edges. In recent months, Netflix appears to have been making some efforts to set the record straight in its own way. Here, we take a look at three documentaries that lift the lid on real world aspect of Australia that will intrigue anyone who is planning on paying a visit or who just has a fascination with the Land Down Under.
Miriam Margolyes explores what it means to be Australian
Miriam Margolyes has been a regular feature of the big and small screen for the past 60 years, with more than 200 credits to her name. Now aged 80, she has taken the step of moving permanently to Australia. Not content to simply soak up the sun, Miriam decided to take a trip across her new homeland in a quest to discover what it really means to be Australian in the 2020s.
Anyone familiar with her TV and movie personas might expect a matronly curmudgeon, but Miriam proves that despite her years, she is open-minded, non-judgmental and has a sharp sense of humor. Her point of view is unique but comfortable, and the whole series is a little like taking a road trip with a fun and slightly eccentric aunt.
Some reviewers have complained that her encounters are contrived and the people she meets are not “real,” but this is nevertheless compelling viewing that shows multiple aspects of Australian life from a unique perspective.
Ka-ching takes a deep dive into Australia’s pokie obsession
Did you know that most of the gambling machines on the Las Vegas strip are what is called ‘Australian-format machines’? They use a format created by Sydney-based slot manufacturer Aristocrat and they revolutionized the casino business in the late 1990s by introducing the multi-line multipliers that have been commonplace ever since. It is just one example of the pioneering role that Australia has had in the development of video slots – or pokies, as they are known Down Under, that is revealed in Ka-ching.
The documentary goes on to explore the Australian love affair with pokies and their controversial impact on Australian society. Australia is home to less than half a percent of the world’s population but has 20 percent of its pokies. In recent years, these have been supplemented by thousands more real money online pokies in Australia. Australia’s online pokies have become something of a political football in recent years, but while the politicians are quick to espouse what is and is not right for Australians, they show little interest in the opinions of those who spend their money playing the games. That is something that director Neil Lawrence attempts to put right in what turned out to be his final documentary before his untimely death.
Tales By Light provides a glimpse of another Australia
This two-part documentary joins Australian photo journalist Dylan River on a very personal journey into his native Australia. He discovers a way of life that is both alien and enchanting, and it is a privilege to take the journey by his side.
River goes to great lengths to protect the integrity of the First Nation tribe and its traditions in a short series that packs in a lot of information about culture, art and ritual. Filmed in 6K and 4K, the documentary will be just as intriguing to those with an interest in photography. Broadcast by Netflix as part of its extended Tales By Light series.