I'm a freelance writer living in Perth, Western Australia.
Published February 26th 2017
The life of a living legend
David Stratton: A Cinematic Life is a fascinating look into the extraordinary life of a man, who is not only a household name in Australia, but has seen and critiqued thousands of films throughout his lifetime.
Wonderfully directed by Sally Aitken (Air Rescue & Seduction in the City), this documentary also contains an incredible list of films, many of which being Australian gems you may have never heard of, which David himself hopes that you will endeavour to seek out for yourself.
Although the cinematic release of this film is two hours long, it doesn't feel long at all, with its clever editing between interviews with some of the biggest names in the film industry and incredible scenes from films, as well as some of the beautiful real life Australian locations, used in many of our most iconic and groundbreaking films.
For those of you interested in film history, David shows the viewers a rare glimpse of the only remaining scenes from the world's first ever full-length narrative feature film 'The Story of The Kelly Gang'. The silent film, made in 1906, traced the exploits of the famous 19th-century bushranger and outlawed criminal, Ned Kelly and his infamous gang and was directed by Charles Tait and filmed in and around Melbourne. In its original format, it ran for more than an hour, with a reel length of approximately 1,200 metres and was so groundbreaking that it was eventually shown in both Australia and the United Kingdom. But alas, film wasn't regarded as being very important and therefore was never properly preserved and most of it deteriorated, only leaving us with a few short snippets, which most people have never seen until now.
Scenes from Australia's first ever full colour film, Jedda, from 1955 are also featured. Jedda, which was directed by Charles Chauvel (Forty Thousand Horsemen), was absolutely groundbreaking in its time for many reasons, particularly as it was made well before government funding was available to filmmakers, as well as the fact that it starred two Indigenous Australians, Robert Tudawali, who was better known as Bobby Wilson and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, during a time when they were still being classed as part of the flora and fauna of the country. The makers of the film have been praised for standing their ground and not giving into the temptation of big bucks, to use American actors with "black face" for the main roles, however, it is unfortunate that the main characters were overdubbed with European accents. Nevertheless, this is definitely a film which all lovers of film must see.
Australia's first ever feature film in full colour
The documentary also delves into the life of David Stratton himself and shows how he grew up in England with a grandmother who took him to see every matinee and a father who disapproved of his son's love of cinema, to how he came to be in Australia and moved up the ranks to be the living legend that he is today.
One of the most recognisable faces in Australia
For those of you who are wanting to learn more about the incredible life of David Stratton, fret not, as there is a make for television version of this documentary, which is three times as long and is due to be released over three nights later in 2017.
David Stratton: A Cinematic Life is rated M and is recommended for a mature audience, as it contains mature themes and coarse language.