While there’s nothing better than the Boxing Day Test Match, Australian cricket fans and movie goers are still waiting for the definitive Aussie cricket flick.
Australians love sport. Whether NRL, AFL or Cricket, we get behind it with more passion and fury than many other countries. Compare this to enthusiasm for Australian film and you get a less widespread passion, yet still an interest, both for film buffs and the Australian film going public. Combining these two national loves, however, hasn’t been fully embraced by filmmakers. Whether this is from snobbishness or lack of inspiration is unsure, but the fact remains there are very few Australian sports films that can be considered up to par, especially when it comes to cricket.
When Australians do broach the subject of sport on screen, it is usually with our trademark comedy. A prime example would be Crackerjack, a hilarious film about a man who has to join the local lawn bowls club to keep his parking spot in their carpark. Not only does Crackerjack take a sympathetic and heart warming look at the old folks who attend lawn bowls, but it analyses the effects of big business on rural Australia, keeping it light and fun all the way through.
There have been more serious attempts too, such as 1983’s Phar Lap and, most recently, Ride Like A Girl. These sorts of films, however, never cement themselves as staples in the history of Australian cinema, or even become box office successes. America has found a bigger audience and appreciation for their sports storytelling, such as with I, Tonya, Point Break or even ridiculous comedies like Dodgeball and Blades of Glory. This could be due to the fact America has a higher population of movie-goers as well as a more patriotic bend towards sports, or just because Hollywood offers these production companies higher budgets to make better quality films. Either way, it becomes clear that Australia is lagging behind.
There is a lot of drama to be experienced in the game of cricket despite its slow pace. This has been realised by creatives but not fully executed. Some have made attempts at bringing the behind the scenes viciousness of the game to the screen, mostly in the form of a mini series. 1984’s Bodyline explored England’s controversial bowling technique, while 2012’s Kerry Packer’s War was a mini series about Nine Network’s World Series Cricket. In terms of film, the pickings are slim.
2012 saw the comedy Save Your Legs! released, funded by the Victorian government to strengthen trade relations between India and Australia through our mutual love of the sport. Another comedy was released in 2013 called Backyard Ashes, which garnered positive reviews and a substantial profit but which is now forgotten. There even exists a lost, silent film from 1924 titled How McDougall Topped The Score about a dog who steals the ball during a cricket match.
These mini-series, politically motivated comedies and lost or forgotten films can’t be considered classics by any means, and even avid cricket fans are unlikely to have heard of them. India, on the other hand, have produced and released a number of movies about cricket, not surprising considering the countries almost religious devotion to the sport.
This Christmas season needs a high quality cricket movie. Whether a serious drama about Bodyline and ball tampering or a lighthearted look at the career of David Boon, a well cast and well written film about our national sport would be welcome after a year of stress for many. The cricket season is far too short, and a staple in cinema about the sport could help many fans maintain their interest throughout the year.
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