History of the Sydney Film Festival 1954-1983

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This study is intended to provide a record of the founding and development of one of Australia's oldest and longest surviving film festivals and to determine the nature and impact of the Festival in its engagement with other cultural, social, and political institutions over the thirty years from 1954 to 1983. I have taken my research from a variety of sources, primarily the archive of Sydney Film Festival papers and ephemera lodged at Mitchell Library, Sydney. I have utilized a number of publications from the period, including daily newspapers, trade papers and specialist film and art journals. These give some indication of the Festival's influence and impact within the wider community and help position it in terms of predominant cultural and social values. I conclude that the Sydney Film Festival has played a significant, and so far somewhat underestimated, role in the development of Australian film culture and industry, and has influenced the nature and reception of films in commercial distribution within the country. In a pedagogical sense, it has influenced contemporary understanding of film and film history, in part by privileging particular movements and filmmakers over others and in part by creating a communal and interactive environment in which films, filmmaking and other aspects of film culture can be discussed, analysed and celebrated. This is a history of an organisation whose membership included some of the major figures in Australian film and related media and I have been committed to bringing a human element to the events and issues explored. To this end, I have utilized the extensive Oral History archive created in 1992 by the Sydney Film Festival in order to commemorate its fortieth anniversary. As is often the case with historical research, some of these personal memories are in conflict with one another and with the documentary record. By a process of referencing and cross referencing, I hope I have arrived at an approximation of a truth about a moment in the life of an Australian cultural icon.
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