Early Australian Cinema
first feature-length movie
In the late 1800s Melbourne was Australia's wealthy, sophisticated world class city, often mentioned in the same sentence as New York, Paris and London. It's not surprising that in 1896, barely a year after the invention of the cinema camera and projector by the Lumiere brothers in France, Melbourne had its own cinema and the first local short film of the Melbourne Cup.
News and events films dominated Australian cinema for the next ten years, each film lasting no longer than 20 minutes.
In 1900 the Salvation Army in Melbourne set up its 'Limelight unit' to make religious films. The first production was Soldiers of the Cross, Bible stories filmed with hundreds of extras and elaborate costumes and sets.
Soldiers of the Cross was actually 13 separate films shown in between live theatre, slides, music and sermons, to make a multimedia show that lasted for two and a half hours. People sometimes argue that this was the world's first feature film (a feature film has to run for at least an hour).
In 1906 Dan Barry and Charles Tait of Melbourne produced and directed The Story of the Kelly Gang, a silent film that ran continuously for a breathtaking 80 minutes, definitely the world's first feature film. It wasn?t until 1911 that other countries began to make feature films. By this time Australia had made 16 full length feature films.
Who Did It?
J & N Tait : production
Dan Barry : producer
Charles Tait : director
Australian silent films: a pictorial history 1896-1929
Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1970, pp 29-31.
Great Moments on
the Australian Screen
Film Restoration. Incl. clip of Kelly Gang
Film in Australia
of Australian Film
Australian Film Television
and Radio School
Fluid head camera mount