A young man and woman pictured from waist up on a dance floor wearing ballroom costumes look anxiously at something off camera

NFSA Restores: Strictly Ballroom

NFSA Restores: Strictly Ballroom at 2022 Cannes Film Festival

Selected for Cannes Classics in 2022

The new NFSA digital restoration of Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom has been selected to screen at the 75th Cannes Film Festival in May 2022.

A Triumphant Return to Cannes

The film, faithfully restored by the NFSA in Sydney in partnership with Spectrum Films, returns to Cannes 30 years after it launched to the world at a midnight screening on 10 May 1992.

It was selected for the Cannes Classics program to screen as part of Cinéma de la plage at the Macé Beach on the Croisette on 24 May 2022.

With extended standing ovations and a bidding war over international rights, Strictly Ballroom was an instant sensation and the buzz of Cannes in 1992, also winning the Prix De Jeunesse (Award of the Youth Prize).

The worldwide box-office popularity of Strictly Ballroom – with a gross of $80m – makes it one of the most successful Australian films of all time:

Excerpt from Strictly Ballroom (Baz Luhrmann, Australia, 1992). Courtesy: M&A Film Corporation. NFSA title: 141624

From Scott and Fran to Elvis

In response to the announcement, Baz Luhrmann reflected:

'It would have been beyond my imagining 30 years ago when our little film was plucked almost magically to be screened in Un Certain Regard at the 12 o’clock screening, that exactly 30 years later I would be returning to the Festival de Cannes, having previously opened the festival twice with my films, and now this year with ELVIS.

'I always remember on that terrifying first screening of Strictly Ballroom when, at the end, a crowd gathered around us and a security guard reached over to pull us out. He said to me, "Monsieur, from this point on, your life will never be the same again." Indeed, he was right. Thank you, Cannes.'

Strictly Ballroom is the first Australian film selected for Cannes Classics since Wake in Fright (1971) – another NFSA restoration that was selected for the festival in 2009.  

Previous Luhrmann hits Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby opened the Cannes Film Festival in 2001 and 2013 respectively. His latest, ELVIS, starring Austin Butler as Elvis Presley and Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, has its world premiere at the festival in May 2022. 

On the Strictly Ballroom restoration, Baz commented further:

'One of the great things we have in Australia is the National Film and Sound Archive. They don’t just keep the dust off things and store them away. They are an active institution; restoring, curating, and connecting people with the treasures they have in their Aladdin’s cave that holds the history of our filmed and recorded heritage.

'It’s their diligent efforts that led to the restoration of the original Strictly Ballroom to this glorious new high-definition cinema presentation. I would like to thank the NFSA and acknowledge Spectrum Films for the wonderful result.'

NFSA CEO Patrick McIntyre said, 'The NFSA Restores program not only brings classic Australian films back to brilliant life technically, but also gives audiences an opportunity to re-engage with favourite movies and re-appraise their impact. We couldn't be more excited that the restored Strictly Ballroom will feature at Cannes alongside the premiere of Baz Luhrmann's ELVIS, illustrating a truly extraordinary career arc.'

Excerpt from Strictly Ballroom (Baz Luhrmann, Australia, 1992). Courtesy: M&A Film Corporation. NFSA title: 141624

Strictly a Smash

Strictly Ballroom began as a 30-minute play that Baz Luhrmann created with his fellow students at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), where it was first performed in 1984. 

After an expanded version of the play won Best Production and Best Director for Luhrmann at the 1986 World Youth Theatre Festival in Czechoslovakia, it had a hit season at the Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Theatre in 1988. 

Leading music producer and publisher Ted Albert saw the play in Sydney and brought in Tristram Miall. Miall produced the film, Luhrmann’s first as director.

After its splashy debut at Cannes in May 1992, Strictly Ballroom opened in Australian cinemas on 20 August 1992 and became a word-of-mouth phenomenon.

It won 8 AFI/AACTA awards (including Best Film and Director) and received 8 BAFTA nominations and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Film (Comedy/Musical).

Strictly Ballroom ushered in Baz Luhrmann’s ‘red carpet trilogy’ followed by Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge! (2001).It also became a stage musical, premiering in Sydney in 2014.

Strictly Ballroom also features in the NFSA’s Australians & Hollywood exhibition in Canberra alongside spectacular costumes and concept art from other Baz Luhrmann films.

NFSA Restores

Strictly Ballroom is the latest classic to benefit from the NFSA Restores program.

Learn more about the NFSA Restores digital restorations of Radiance (1998); Floating Life (1996); Australia Daze (1988); The Sentimental Bloke (1919); Eternity (1994); My Brilliant Career (1979); The Cheaters (1929); Witches and Faggots, Dykes and Poofters (1980) and 3 silent films by Snowy Baker (1919 to 1924).

Watch clips from these restored films and more in the NFSA Restores curated collection.

NFSA Restores: Strictly Ballroom had its Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival on 11 June 2022.