Broken Hill and the Far West has a rich filmic history: more than 35 feature films have been shot in the region. The feature films, produced primarily by non-Indigenous filmmakers, show an evolving understanding of the desert, from an unknowable place of fear to an unexpected site of celebration.
The NFSA collection holds many films and recorded sounds featuring the region. Here is a sample of the collection (including sound, feature film and documentary works) dating from 1926 to 1994.
Directed by Frank Hurley for Cinesound Productions (NFSA title 19627), Silver City (1936) is an industrial documentary about mining in the mineral-rich area of Broken Hill. The film shows the processes involved in mining rock from underground sites; the extraction of zinc, lead and silver deposits from the rock; and the refining of the minerals.
Watch excerpts of the film here.
Directed by Canadian Ted Kotcheff, and shot at Old Silverton Railway Station, Menindee Lakes, Silverton, Yanco Glen and Kinalung, Wake in Fright (1971) was produced by Group W films and NLT Productions. The film depicts a limitless desert and a brutal society. The NFSA restored Wake In Fright in 2009, and the restored print screened at Cannes Film Festival and the Sydney Film Festival, followed by a series of very successful screenings in Broken Hill and around Australia.
Director Ted Kotcheff talks about filming in Broken Hill:
'I loved the outback with its unearthly colours and shapes, the courageous people who lived in its inhospitable circumstances, the town of Broken Hill and the men there who befriended me, the two-up schools I became addicted to. For years I looked for a subject that would take me back to make another film in the outback but it was not to be.'
You can watch clips from the film and learn more about it in the Wake in Fright 50th anniversary curated collection.
Mad Max 2 (1981), directed by Australian George Miller, revisits the other-worldly and unknowable desert expanses shown in Wake In Fright. In this film, the desert acts as futuristic battleground in a lawless world. See filmmaker George Miller talking about filming Mad Max 2 (1981) in Broken Hill here.
Unlike many films which had come before it, the vast and humbling desert shown in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) is a site of positive transformation when drag performers are invited to dance and sing with local Aboriginal people.
Image courtesy of Latent Image Productions.
The NFSA holds many items in the collection relating to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, from costumes and call sheets, to scripts and stills.
australianscreen has many titles filmed in Broken Hill. Click here to see a full list of titles relating to Broken Hill.
To view items from the NFSA collection relating to Broken Hill, available for viewing at the NFSA in Canberra and at access centres around Australia.