Road to Kokoda

Road to Kokoda
Cinesound Movietone Productions
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This clip begins with footage of Salvation Army headquarters where food and drink are provided to Australian troops. At a village base, Papuan stretcher carriers bring men to be tended by an AIF doctor who bandages the injured. The voice-over narration says that 'these are realities of war’. Salvation Army officer Albert Moore lights the cigarette of a wounded soldier propping himself up on his elbows. Other men are gathered around him. A man whose arm is in a sling stands in front of a village hut. A village at Eora Creek is shown in tropical rain. Papuan carriers climb the track in the rain and members of the 39th Battalion labour along the Kokoda track up steep muddy inclines and through thick jungle. The final three shots show a group of men walking through ankle-deep mud; a tighter framing of the same scene; and a pan across the faces of four weary Australian soldiers.

This clip is from the concluding two minutes of Road to Kokoda. It is interesting to compare with the Cinesound newsreel Kokoda Front Line! (1942), which incorporates similar footage taken by Damien Parer. Both newsreels are emotionally engaging as persuasive propaganda.

The final sequence in this clip cleverly uses three key images in succession – a group of men walking through the mud, a close-up on their feet, and a pan across four exhausted soldiers. The first shot establishes them in their jungle context, emphasising the extreme conditions and at the same time giving the soldiers individual identities. The second is a tighter shot of the same scene (used to conclude Cinesound’s Kokoda Front Line!, 1942) which transforms the individuals into a group, symbolising that these particular diggers represent every digger in every war. This arouses a feeling of national pride – it is one of the iconic images of Parer’s film, often reproduced as a still – and feeds into the final shot of Australian troops from the 39th Battalion. Parer shied away from panning shots as they were difficult to cut together, but this one works well. The serious and weighty voice-over asks the final dramatic question, engaging the viewer directly, 'They feel this is everyone’s war. Do you?’.