Special issue introduction: utilitarian filmmaking in Australia 1945–80

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While Australian cinema is generally defined by the feature filmmaking tradition, at least since the 1970s, ‘utilitarian filmmaking' represents a significant but barely visible portion of screen culture in Australia, a portion that has had an emphatic but unexamined influence on the media industries, education systems, industrial relations, research culture and national culture. Recent scholarly work undertaken internationally has shown how this vital strand of cultural and industrial history has often been overlooked; worse, it has often been expunged from cultural memory, either by critical neglect or through the destruction of archives previously deemed worthless by businesses and collecting-agencies. Given the insights and impacts of the latest studies of utilitarian filmmaking in the US and Europe, it is no exaggeration to propose that local, Australian holdings in the genre will come to be understood as a hitherto overlooked skein of ‘DNA’ in our national media systems. To study this heritage is to deepen our understanding of general/global and local/national characteristics of audiovisual culture and aesthetics as they operate in Australia, as well as to contribute in a major way to the burgeoning scholarship in international media archive research.This Introduction will focus on the manner in which ‘utilitarian cinema’ operates in relation to conceptions of Australian national cinema as well as to how this term can also contribute to formulations of transnational cinema. It will introduce the findings of this Australian Research Council funded research project being conducted by Ruby Arrowsmith-Todd, Stella Barber, Mick Broderick, Ross Gibson, John Hughes, Grace Russell and Deane Williams as well as introducing the case studies that were undertaken.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-1980
Number of pages14
JournalStudies in Documentary Film
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Australia
  • documentary
  • instructional film
  • non-fiction film
  • Utilitarian Filmmaking

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