Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Communications and Arts

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr George Karpathakis

Second Advisor

Tania Visosevic

Abstract

Between 2007 and 2012, 140 fictional feature films were financed with the assistance of Australian film funding bodies. Of these 140 films, only 31 featured female protagonists and of these 31 films, only 8 were comedies (see Appendix B). These figures show statistically, Tasha, the creative film component of this research project, is not a typical Australian comedy film; it is the story of Tasha, an unemployed girl from Girrawheen in her early twenties, who has lost her sense of identity. As Australian films such as Little Fish¸ Candy, Jedda and Muriel’s Wedding would suggest, this is certainly not an uncommon premise in Australian national cinema. However, this is not all there is to know about Tasha; she is preoccupied, not by a love interest or by a drug addiction, but by ninjutsu, and vigilantism. This is where Tasha finds its unique approach to Australian cinema’s historic treatment of the woman-centred narrative. That said, beneath Tasha’s unconventional surface arguably lies a truly Australian comedy film.

The exegesis component of this project re-interprets Bazin’s question, “Qu'est-ce que le cinéma?” (What is cinema?), with a theoretical framework inspired by Australian film theorist Tom O’Regan’s influential text, Australian National Cinema. The exegesis begins by looking at Australian national cinema as a whole, then narrowing the focus to Australian comedy cinema. O’Regan (1996) describes Australian cinema as a national cinema; a cinema that embodies Australian culture, society and history. The focus is on Australian comedy film texts, and their social, political and cultural contexts. Tasha, the creative film project, is what O’Regan would term a “problematisation” of Australian comedy cinema.

The key argument of this project is that Australian national comedy films are uniquely Australian, cinematic explorations of individual identity, socio-cultural identity, landscape and family. Australia laughs about what it knows best, these four narrative and aesthetic preoccupations being central to Australian socio-cultural values and attitudes, to understanding the concept of Australianness. Australian comedy cinema is a problematic genre unto itself. The theoretical component of this project is a profile of Australian comedy cinema’s homogenised representation of Australianness. Tasha is then presented as an alternative. This investigation aims to both improve, and demonstrate an understanding of Australian comedy cinema as a problematisation of gender, culture, landscape, family and identity.

Tasha responds to the research question, “What is Australian comedy cinema?” by revealing that even an Australian action comedy with exciting stunts and fight scenes, is still a story of an individual’s sense of identity, family, and place. Such stories are arguably the hallmark of Australian comedy cinema; this carries a uniquely Australian sense of quirkiness. It remains the domain of the underdog: the battlers, larrikins, and of course the ockers. It still carries the same messages; never forget who you are, who your friends and family are, or where you came from. Despite its unconventional narrative, subject matter, soundtrack and aesthetics, Tasha proves to be no exception; it is still easily identified as a truly Australian comedy film.

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