BY BETH TAYLOR

The NFSA holds Australia’s first ever Oscar which was awarded to Cinesound Review’s chief director Ken G Hall (1901–1994) in 1943 for Kokoda Front Line! (1942). Learn more about Australian films at the Oscars in our curated collection.

Kokoda Front Line!, also known as Cinesound Review No 568, is a powerful example of wartime propaganda and was filmed by cinematographer Damien Parer. Parer was sent to film the war by the Department of Information. The newsreel shows the gruelling conditions Australian troops experienced on the Kokoda track in the jungles of New Guinea during the Second World War.

The inscription on the Oscar reads: ‘To Kokoda Front Line! for its effectiveness in portraying simply yet forcefully the scene of war in New Guinea and for its moving presentation of the bravery and fortitude of our Australian comrades in arms.’

Kokoda Front Line! was one of four films that shared the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1943. According to Ray Edmondson, Curator Emeritus of the NFSA, it was the only newsreel to ever be awarded an Oscar.

In an oral history recorded in 1985, Hall recalls that being awarded the Oscar was a ‘great joy and delight to all my people and to me especially because I’d had a fair amount to do with it’.

At first Hall was sent an ersatz plaster Oscar because metal was scarce during the war. Then in 1945 he was presented with the real Oscar, which is the one in the NFSA collection. Hall specified in his will that the Oscar should be archived as a tribute to Damien Parer – ‘to his bravery, skill and endurance … He made it possible.’ Parer was killed in action in 1944.

The story goes that Hall never returned the plaster Oscar, but its whereabouts is unknown.

You can see a list of all Australian Academy Award winners and nominees here. If anyone reading this has an Oscar lying around that they would like to donate to the NFSA we promise to take very good care of it!