Firstly, what is Ozploitation?
Took me a little thinking to get a grasp of it but I’m going to put it plain and simple for you. Ozploitation is the term used to describe Australian genre films during its golden years of the 1970s and 80s. These genre films basically exploited Australian stereotypes and aspects of Australian culture. Deborah Thomas (2009) explains that some of these genres are nicely summed up in the film Not Quite Hollywood (2008) which include ‘Ockers, Knockers, Pubes and Tubes’ which showcases comedy, particularly sex comedy with films such as Stork (1971), The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972), and Alvin Purple (1973). ‘Comatose Killers and Outback Chillers’ is next which features low budget horror films such as Thirst (1979) and Howling III: The Marsupials (1987). Lastly is ‘High Octane Disasters and Kung-Fu Masters’ which focuses on sensational action films likes The Man From Hong Kong (1975) and Turkey Shoot (1982).
So, how did this all start?
There are two reasons as to how the Ozploitation era started. In 1971, R-rated films could be made in Australia, which sparked the rise in in over the top action, horror and sexually explicit films (Daily Review 2014). This style of film was mostly used from 1971 to 1975 because it was after that, that the Australian Film Commission (AFC) was introduced with a view of “movies projecting a positive sense of national identity to the world” (Ryan 2012, p.145). As the genre movies still slowly continued like Mad Max (1979), Patrick (1978) and Thirst (1979), the next period of low budget genre films emerged in 1981 with the introduction of the 10BA tax incentive. This 10BA tax scheme was put in place to essentially move the burden of film funding from the government to private investors that resulted in a surge of genre films where producers would receive at 150% tax back (Ryan 2012, p.145). Ryan (2012) says “films were produced for tax relief with little regard for quality; and for cultural identity advocates. 10BA film concessions did not necessarily give an outcome that was desirable in cultural or aesthetic terms”(p.146). Basically these films were so bad they were good.
What did/does this mean for Australian film?
The term Ozploitation only started with the film Not Quite Hollywood (2008), and is therefore only a relatively new stop to discuss. Ryan (2010) believes that the film has made a negative impact towards Australian film history as he says “Not Quite Hollywood does not present a complete body of Australian genre movies and privileges certain movies over others to advance the documentary’s argument”(p.8). Ryan says “it limits our understanding of Australian genre cinema’s heritage to the low end of genre and restricts study of such films to a narrow exploitation framework”(p.11).
I agree with Ryans argument and as a result of “tacky” Ozploitation films I believe that currently, and as Tiley (2010 [excerpt from Ryan 2012, p.148]) puts it perfectly “Australian film makers have become incredibly hostile to genre and slid into a gloomy trough of art and self-expression.” I believe filmmakers are doing this as a stand to move away from genre films that have a negative connotations. The problem with this is that arty films to not attract mass audiences. Filmmakers need to start creating films that are entertaining and not think about how arty they can be. Less successful Australian films means less cinemas attendance to support these films.
Daily Review 2014, Five Essential Ozploitation Movies, Daily Review, viewed 31st Jan 16, http://dailyreview.com.au/five-essential-ozploitation-movies/15950
Ryan, M D 2010, ‘Towards an understanding of Australian genre cinema and entertainment : beyond the limitations of ‘Ozploitation’ discourse’, Continuum : Journal of Media & Cultural Studies , vol.24, no.6, pp. 1-13
Ryan, M D 2012, ‘A silver bullet for Australian cinema? Genre movies and the audience debate’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol.6, no.2, pp.141-157
Thomas, D 2009, ‘Tarantino’s Two Thumbs Up: Ozploitation and the Reframing of the Aussie Genre Film’, Metro Magazine: Media and Education Magazine, no.161, pp.90-95