Exploitation films refer to the type of cinema that is cheaply produced and designed to make a quick buck; with many sub genres from Blaxploitation to Sexploitation, and although they claim to warn their audience about the consequences of these problems, many often end up celebrating it (Mathijs 2011). Ozploitation is such an example. The term describes the many different genre films that were produced in Australia in the 70s and 80s and was introduced by Australian film maker Mark Hartley in his 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood (Goldsmith, Ryan and Lealand, 2015). With the release and popularity of his documentary, these films rose into the public eye again and we are able to review the Australian film industry of that time through the case study of Ozploitation genre films.
It began in the 1970s when the Whitlam government began supporting and funding the arts which led to the establishment of the national funding agency; the AFC, and most importantly, the 10BA tax incentive (Burns and Eltham 2010). Because of the significant financial return from this subsidy, the film production industry experienced an unprecedented boom (Burns and Eltham 2010), including a boom of Ozploitation genre films. Not Quite Hollywood focuses on three types of films in this period: sex comedies and ocker films; low budget horror films and sensational action films, and in all cases it seemed that the directors, actors and producers seemed to have no limits for how far they would go in putting themselves and others at risk in their quest for success. While being interviewed in the documentary (2008), actress Jamie Lee Curtis stated: “In America we just call that insane.”
However, despite the risks and exploitation one thing became apparent: audiences enjoyed these kinds of films. The audience share for Australian cinema in this time was the highest it had been in post-war history (Burns and Eltham 2010). People were thrilled with the vulgar, wild and sexed-up films but once the 10BA subsidy was wound back in 1988 (Burns and Eltham 2010) this era of exploitive films came to an end. Hartley’s documentary enables us to become aware of this forgotten period in Australian cinema history and from reviewing it, we can see that exploitation genre films could be the way to move forward in the Australian film industry. The Ozploitation films show us that genre films are popular; they can connect with their audiences and create fame, money and a successful national film industry.
Although Ozploitation films began paving the way for audiences to have a more receptive attitude towards Australian films, they simultaneously hold production of genre films back as it narrows the idea of Australian genre films to exploitation and ‘trashy cinema’ (Ryan 2010). As Hartley says: “our sex, our horror, our action, our thrillers were considered embarrassments…” and as a result, they are something that funding programs wish to avoid, which is why Australian genre films are so lacking currently. However, Philip Brophy has a different idea as he considers the only real way for Australian cinema to develop is to breakdown the ‘tacky pseudo-highbrow tone’ our industry has and instead invest in ‘more sex, gags, thrills and gore’ (Ryan 2010). The case study of Ozploitation genre films shows that Australian cinema can be popular and draw in an audience but faces major hurdles (Ryan 2012) and needs to move firmly away from the notion of the Ozploitation trash aesthetic.
Burns, Alex and Eltham, Ben “Boom and Bust in Australian Screen Policy: 10BA, the Film Finance Corporation and Hollywood’s ‘race to the bottom’”. Media International Australia. August 2010, No. 136, pgs 103-118.
Goldsmith, B., Ryan, M. and Lealand, G., 2015, Directory of world cinema: Australia and New Zealand. Bristol: Intellect.
If imitation is the highest form of flattery: what can the golden era of ozploitation herald for the future of Australian cinema? photograph (online) accessed January 2018 https://givernywitheridge.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/imitationthe-highest-form-of-flattery-does-a-return-to-the-golden-era-of-ozploitation-herald-the-best-opportunity-for-australian-cinema-in-the-global-market/
Mathijs, Ernest, 2011, http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199791286/obo-9780199791286-0096.xml accessed 9th January 2018
Not Quite Hollywood, 2008, [DVD] Madman Entertainment and Umbrella Entertainment, Australia and U.S, directed by M. Hartley
Ryan, Mark David, 2010, “Towards an understanding of Australian genre cinema and entertainment: beyond the limitations of ‘Ozploitation’ discourse.” https://eprints.qut.edu.au/32985/1/c32985.pdf accessed 9th of January 2018
Ryan, Mark David, 2012, “A silver bullet for Australian cinema? Genre movies and the audience debate”. Studies in Australasian Cinema. Vol. 6 No. 2 pgs. 141-157