'Romancing the Chakra' (1998)






As we enter the noughties, the notion of what is and what isn't an Australian production is debatabley difficult to classify as international collaborations between directors, actors, production companies and funding bodies in contemporary film increases.

40,000 Years of Dreaming
(1996) George Miller [documentary]
'Australian born film maker George (Mad Max) Miller offers a personal view of Australian films. He suggests that they can be regarded as visual music, public dreaming, mythology, and song-lines. In extrapolating the idea of movies as song-lines he examines feature films under the following categories: songs of the land; the bushman; the convicts; the bush-rangers; mates and larrikins; the digger; pommy bashing; the sheilas; gays; the wogs; blackfellas; urban subversion. He then concludes that these films can be thought of as "Hymns that sing of Australia".(1)

Add Religion And Stir
(1995) Elisa Tranter [58mins, documentary]
Add Religion And Stir is a documentary which examines Australian societies degree of tolerance to new religious groups and their practices recounting experiences of Australian Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus.(2)

Back of Beyond*
(1995) Michael Robertson [R, 85mins]
Outback Australia: an ancient land filled with infinite beauty and eternal mystery, the magical place where a young man's search for spiritual fulfilment becomes an emotional awakening of the heart and soul. It is a journey to back of beyond.'(3)

Paul Davies: More Big Questions
(1995) Piper Films [12 x 30mins, TV series]
For millennia people have wondered at their own existence and the mysteries of life. Powerful answers - and entirely new questions - have been provided by mathematics and science. In this series, crafty interrogator and sceptic Phillip Adams talks to acclaimed scientist and author Professor Paul Davies about the mysteries that have filled people with fascination and dread since the dawn of time.(4)

Secrets of Sacred Sex, The: A Guide To Intimacy and Loving
(1995) Cynthia Connop [74mins, documentary]
In most ancient cultures, sexuality played an important part in religion and spirituality. Many of these practices are resurfacing.1 'Based on the ancient Tantric belief that the hidden potency of sexual loving is the seed of all creativity and transcendence, this breathtaking new video shows viewers how to experience the energy, pleasure and ecstasy of sacred sex. Six engaging, real-life couples share information and demonstrate unique techniques for achieving deeper intimacy, pleasure and connectedness.' (4a)

(1995) Scott Hicks '
The story of [child prodigy] pianist - David Helfgott - and the dominance of his father, a Jewish survivor of the holocaust, [who remians] skeptical of God and religion (whose name, ironically, means God's help).'' Not specifically on religious or spiritual themes but some accurate representation on David Helfgott's religious upbringing in the Jewish faith by his Polish family.(5)

Bitter Herbs and Honey
(1996) Monique Schwarz [55mins, documentary]
'Since First Fleet days, Jews arriving in Australia have made their home in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton. Many Eastern European Jews living there chose not to join the cultural melting pot, keeping their language, religion, culture and traditions. This documentary looks at the way they struggled to ensure the survival of these traditions, and the conflicts they encountered with Melbourne's well-established German-Anglo Jewish community.'(6)

(1996) Adam Elliot [6mins, claymation]
Religious 'salesmen' pop up in a young boy's memories of his uncle...

Exploring Jerusalem
(1998) Clifford Warne [26 mins, documentary]
'An exploration of a city venerated by three of the world's largest religions. Highlights include the Tower of David Museum, the Damascus Gate bazaars, the Pool of Siloam and the Dome of the Rock. The history of the 'City of Peace' from ancient biblical times until the time of Christ; it traces Jesus' steps during the days leading up to his crucifixion and after.'(7)

My Journey, My Islam
(1998) Kay Rasool [55mins, documentary]
'Powerful in its simplicity, My Journey, My Islam is a documentary about a woman's journey through her past and present, in search of her relationship with her Faith, and this slowly unfolds to encompass not only her rite of passage but also the lives of Muslim women in India, Australia, Pakistan and England. The focus of Kay Rasool's journey is to examine Muslim women's attitudes to the veil (hijab), which uncovers a range of often opposing perspectives to personal belief, the rights of women in Islam and the role of the Hijab and Burkha (complete body-covering veil).
Kay charts the life of her mother in India since its Independence, when women came out of the family home to be formally educated and work, giving up the Burkha, and continues to Kay's own youth as a feminist activist encouraging Hindu and Muslim women alike to throw off the veil. Moving on to her new life in Australia, Kay depicts an alternative attitude to the Hijab by young women in Sydney, who see it as a symbol of individuality and empowerment. Visiting her mother-in-law in Pakistan, the Hijab is seen as a symbol of family pride and status. Benazir Bhutto discusses her beliefs and the changing rights of women in Pakistan. Through all these stories emerge a common sense of faith and determination to find one's self as a Muslim woman in today's world.'(8)

Oscar and Lucinda
(1998) Gillian Armstrong
A period drama set in England and Australia during the mid-1800s. 'Oscar Hopkins (Ralph Fiennes), the son of a Plymouth brethren, is called to become an Anglican priest.'(9) Whilst training for the ministry at Oxford, Oscar 'discovers his love of gambling. He puts most of his winnings in the poor box, keeping only what he needs to live on, but he can't stop himself. Citing Pascal's Wager, he refuses to believe that a God who asks us to bet on his existence finds other forms of betting a sin. Predictably, society doesn't agree. Deciding that a posting as a missionary can cure him, he sails to Australia (though he's terrified of water). On board, he meets up with Lucinda Leplastrier (Cate Blanchett), a young woman whose mother's death has left her well provided for and who is returning to Sydney to run a glassworks. Cards are her other passion, the one that brings her and Oscar together.'(10) 'In Sydney, Oscar's gambling leads him to be thrown out of the priesthood and he moves in with Lucinda, with whom he falls in love. The pair make a wager that Oscar cannot transport a glass church by land to Lucinda's friend and business partner, an outback priest Reverend Hasset, who Oscar thinks she is in love with. Whilst Oscar successfully transports the church to the remote town, he is rather traumatised by the time he gets there and is seduced by a local widow. He goes to pray in the floating glass church...'(11)

Romancing the Chakra
(1998) Froxoff Films [60 mins, documentary]
'Examines how the search for love and life meaning in the new age '90s is big business ' from alternative remedies, shamanism and the do-it-yourself spiritual journey. People from every part of the economic spectrum are paying millions for the packaged happiness that is on sale in the supermarket of the soul. This program brings into question the effectiveness and integrity of the range of new age therapies currently on the market.'(12)

Chasing Buddha
(1999) Julie Stone Productions [60 mins, documentary]
'"Life is not a sentence," says former Catholic, communist and militant feminist, Robina Courtin. A Buddhist nun for over twenty years, Robina visits Kentucky State Penitentiary in the heart of America's bible belt to lead a group of death-row inmates on the path to enlightenment. Constantly travelling, Robina faces her sacrifices as a nun ' unravelling the traumatic events that lead her to Buddhism.'(13)

Death of a Missionary
(1999) Peter Kirkwood (55mins, documentary)
'More religions coexist in India than in any other country. The murder of an Australian missionary and his two sons by militant Hindus in January 1999 exemplifies the extreme social tensions this can create. But following this tragedy, leaders of more than 60 different faiths came together in a pilgrimage from Delhi to Orissa, the site of the killings, to protest against this religious intolerance. They are part of a wider movement, which seeks to return to the religious tolerance espoused in the constitution. Death of a Missionary travels with this influential and charismatic group into the hearts, minds and faiths of modern day India.'(14)

Holy Smoke
(1999) Jane Campion
'Ruth, a young Australian, joins a cult in Delhi, India. Her horrified friend returns to Sydney to tell her family. Ruth's mother, Miriam travels to India to lure Ruth home, claiming Ruth's father is dying. Miriam suffers an asthma attack and is flown home on a stretcher, accompanied by her daughter. Ruth's family hires P.J. Walter, and American "cult exiter" to de-program Ruth. Ruth's family force her to spend three days in a deserted hut with P.J. Although strong in her faith at first, Ruth soon starts to break, and burns her sari. This is when the flim takes a twist and the rest of the film shows the power struggle and gender relations between Ruth and P.J.'(15)

Molokai: The Story of Father Damien
(1999) Paul Cox (PG, 120mins)
'Molokai is based on the true story of 19th century Belgian priest Father Damien (David Wenham) who sees his ultimate calling as living amongst and caring for the lepers who have been exiled to live (and end) there lives on the island colony of Molokai. Father Damien makes it his mission to improve conditions for the lepers on the island and struggles with himself and the powers that be to provide adequate care and dignity for an otherwise forgotten people.'(16) 'An admirable attempt to portray historical events, it lacks a driving spirit, characters seem one-dimensional. The film has a great cast yet Cox seems to have made a telemovie, not the epic one imagines from the outset.'

Unique Oneness of Christian Savage, The
(1999) Jennifer Ussi [19mins, documentary]
'Christian Savage, a twelve year old farm boy, spends his childhood years with Nyadze, the son of his mother's Zulu domestic worker. Growing up in vastly different cultures, the boys explore the delights of rural Africa - the land, the people and their religions. Doubts grow in Christian and he questions his destructive church until one day his friend's beliefs are etched in his soul forever.'(17)

Trauma & The Spirit
(2000) Peter Kirkwood - Producer) [30mins, documentary]
'When disaster strikes, many turn to religion for solace, and for answers. But catastrophe can also cause drastic change in beliefs, or total abandonment of faith. How can religion help in coming to terms with trauma? And what are the forces at work here that cause a deep re-evaluation of life's goals?'.(18)

What is a Seventh-Day Adventist?
(2000) Marcus Gillezeau & Grenville Kent [24mins, documentary]
A look at one of the fastest-growing religions in the world.(19)

Afghan Alphabet
(2001) Mohesen Makhmalbaf [45 mins, documentary]
'In December 2001 hundreds of children fled the war in Afghanistan and managed to reach a school run by UNICEF, in Iran. They began a new education after years of indoctrination by the Taliban. One of the girls is not willing to remove her burqa even though she is free to do so, in fear of the vengeful god instilled in her by the Taliban.'(20) 'The documentary focuses on the efforts of teachers to educate Afghan children who have known nothing but Taliban rule and religious indoctrination. Faramarz K-Rahber is a documentary filmmaker born in Iran and based in Brisbane. He fled from Iran in 1990 because of religion discrimination.'(21)

Holy Rollers
(2001) Rosie Jones [G, 52mins, documentary]
Filmed at a time when there was 'a moment of hope in the troubled Middle East', just before New Years Eve 1999, 'Holy Rollers reminds us that tourism is one of the few industries where Jews and Arabs actually work together'. Holy Rollers follows the Israeli/Australian tour guide, Suzi Rosedale, thoughout Israel with various groups of religious pilgrims. Some under the influence of what is called 'Jerusalem Syndrome', this film is noted for its 'ability to look at the religious experience from an essentially neutral standpoint and to let the experience stand for itself without judgement.'(22)

(2001) Judith MacDougall [G, 55mins, documentary]
'Diya examines the lively social life surrounding one object, a small terra cotta oil lamp called a "diya" used in India in religious ceremonies. It is central to the Hindu festival of Diwali, "the festival of lights" and the film begins in the increasingly frantic days before this major celebration. The film follows a diya through its creation on the potters' wheel of an extended family of potters, to the bazaar where it is sold as a commodity, and then to a mother and her children performing the Diwali rituals. Finally it is discarded and returned to the earth. This experimental approach to material culture provides an insight into the lives of ordinary people who are celebrating family, faith, and a new year.'(23)'

Health, Illness, Body and Soul
(2001) Peter Kirkwood - producer [30mins, documentary]
'Can spirituality affect your health? This program looks at the renewed interest in the role of religion in coping with sickness. Recently there has been a spate of scientific studies looking at the effect of prayer and spiritual belief on illness. Most show religious practice improves health, but critics question some of the research and argue it is difficult, if not impossible, to come to definitive conclusions in this area. We talk to seven health professionals from across the spectrum of alternative and mainstream medical practice about their views on fundamental issues of health and illness.'(24)

Man Who Sued God, The
(2001) Mark Joffe [M, 102mins]
Steve Myers' (Billy Connolly) boat is destroyed by lightning. His insurance company informs him that his policy does not cover 'Acts of God'. Knowing that if he sued the insurance giant he will surely lose, he decides instead to sue the 'person' responsible for his boat's loss: God. As God's earthly representatives, the Church becomes the target of this court case and the payment will have to come from their coffers if they lose. This is an unacceptable outcome, for if they lose there will be far-reaching consequences and massive repayments from others who have lost out in similar situations.
Myers meets up with the well-known journalist Anna Redmond (Judy Davis), a writer who has become dissatisfied with the current state of the media and sees Myers situation as 'a great story'. She coaches Myers in the ways of public relations, and attempts to bring the media to his side. Steve Myers rapidly manages to expand into a huge public figure, with support from those who have also been hit by the insurance company's claim of 'acts of God', but is also criticised and protested against by religious groups. Myers begins to enjoy a string of successful court appearances as he manages to manoeuvre the insurance company and the Church into a disadvantageous position. The Man Who Sued God is a comedy which interlinks insurance corporations, organised religion and the media, and is a criticism of these three aspects in contemporary society. It challenges fundamental beliefs, addressing the question of whether God exists.(25)

(2001) Mojgan Khadem [M, 99mins]
'Focuses on the tenuous interaction between Muslim Afghan caveleers, German Lutheran missionaries and Aborigines in 1890's South Australia. My critique is of religion and the very reason for its existence. If religion is going to be the cause of dissension and oppression and conflict, then why religion? The characters are all convinced that their religions are the truth'they never question it. The truth, I believe, is something that should be sought on an individual level and that is what I am portraying through the journey of one girl.'(26)

Welcome to the Waks Family
(2002) Barbara Chobocky [52mins, documentary]
'Welcome to the Waks family...With 17 children to the same two parents, it's one of the largest families in Australia. Everyday life in the Waks household is a logistical challenge of monumental proportions. There are two minibuses to move the family around and the kitchen in its suburban Melbourne home has five ovens for kosher cooking. The family follows an orthodox form of Judaism. School, work, synagogue and socialising all take place within a tight-knit Jewish community. Welcome to the Waks Family is a rare invitation to step inside this world. Zephaniah grew up as Stephen in a non-religious Jewish family on Sydney's north shore and on a diet of surfing, parties, girls and rock 'n' roll. His search for spiritual satisfaction led him to the Lubavitch branch of Judaism and to New York, where the movement has its headquarters. There, his marriage to Haya was arranged through a matchmaker and friends.
Haya's upbringing could not have been more different. Born in Israel of Yemeni parents, her childhood was steeped in one of the more conservative branches of the Jewish faith. Together, Zephaniah and Haya have worked hard to raise their children within the strict tenets of their belief and to give them the individual attention that they need. The laws and rituals that they observe give the whole family a sense of purpose and unity. Pop music, movies and novels are not allowed and boys and girls don't mix except within the family. However, as the children approach adolescence, they must make up their own minds about whether to continue on this religious path or discard it and face their parents' hurt and disapproval. This fascinating documentary follows the Waks family over five years, from the marriage of the eldest girl at 21, just a few months after her youngest sister was born. It's a unique opportunity to experience a family and a religious life that are extraordinary in almost every respect'.(27)

(2002) Hussain Currimbhoy [12mins, documentary]
Hamid, a young filmmaker, finds himself confronted by truths about himself and his religion when he writes a pro-women script set in and amongst Australian Muslims.(28).

Kurtal - Snake Spirit
(2003) Nicole Ma [28mins, documentary]
'Spider, a sprightly 80 year old Aboriginal artist and dancer, travels from Fitzroy Crossing into the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia to visit a jila - a sacred waterhole. He is one of the main custodians responsible for the practices that take place there. For the first time, he is taking his family and community elders back to his birthplace, where he will communicate with their ancestors through Kurtal, the Snake Spirit in an ancient ritual. This unique documentary examines the ongoing change faced by a remote Aboriginal community and their determination to maintain their close links to birthplace and country. It is a celebration of strong tradition and culture thriving through the spirit and willingness of the next generation. Kurtal Snake Spirit is co-directed by Nicole Ma and Michelle Mahrer, two multi award-winning filmmakers renowned for their films with indigenous communities throughout the world. Beautifully photographed, this film takes a stunning look at a resilient group of people practicing ancient traditions in a contemporary society, and the immense impact this is having on their culture.'(29)

Priests 24/7
(2003) Peter Thomas [documentary]
'Father Kevin Dillon and Father Max Vodola were serving at St. Mary of the Angles Parish when a video production crew tagged along with them as they were on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The video portrays these men as leaders, teachers, counsellors, preachers and celebrants as they visit schools, hospitals and local parishioners. The film also captures them as men of public and private prayer -- praying alone, preparing homilies and celebrating Mass and the sacraments of marriage and baptism. John Santamaria, executive producer, wanted to do this project in order to counter adverse media coverage of priests in Australia and highlight the good works done every day by thousands of men who are dedicated to their vocation.'(30)

Rock of the Heavens
(2003) Nosh Mistry [documentary]
'A documentary highlighting the relationships between religion, rocks and human beings.'(31)

Leaving the Exclusive Brethren
(2005) Greenstone Pictures [60 mins, documentary]
'A documentary highli
This beautifully conceived documentary goes where no documentary has gone before – inside the hidden world of the Exclusive Brethren. The Exclusive Brethren believe they are ‘the chosen’ ones and exclude themselves from the world, living apart, sending their children to Exclusive Brethren schools and working in businesses run by Exclusive Brethren.

For the first time anywhere in the world, elders of a branch of the Exclusive Brethren allow cameras behind the veil to discover how an Exclusive Brethren family really lives. We also meet four people who have been excommunicated from the Brethren. Totally isolated from their old life, they are outcasts, shunned by the family and loved ones they leave behind.


1) Simon Hart, '40,000 Years of Dreaming', Internet Movie Database
http://www.imdb.com (2003)
2) The AFC's Searchable Film Database http://www.afc.gov.au (2003)
3) Scott Murray, Australian Cinema, Scott Murray (ed.) Allen & Unwin (in assoc.with the AFC): St Leonards, 1995 pp. 404
4a) The AFC's Searchable Film Database http://www.afc.gov.au (2003)
5) Peter Malone, "Churches In and Out of the Mainstream" in From Back Pews to Front Stalls - the Churches in 100 years of Australian cinema. Peter Malone (ed.) National Capital Printing: Fyshwick. 1996 pp. 55
6) The AFC's Searchable Film Database http://www.afc.gov.au (2003)
7) The AFC's Searchable Film Database http://www.afc.gov.au (2003)
8) Ronin Films http://www.roninfilms.com.au (2003)
9) Oz Film Database, The Reading Room, Murdoch University, School of Media, Communication and Culture http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au (2003)
10) CharlesTaylor, 'Pixie Dust' in Salon Arts & Entertainment > Movies http://archive.salon.com (1998)
11) Oz Film Database, ibid http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au (2003)
12) Beyond International http://www.beyond.com.au (2002)
13) Beyond International http://www.beyond.com.au (2002)
14) The AFC's Searchable Film Database http://www.afc.gov.au (2003)
15) Jayne Pyke, 'Holy Smoke' Oz Film Database ibid http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au (2001)
16) Alison Fraser, 'Molokai - Story of Father Damien' Oz Film Database ibid http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au (2003)
17) The AFC's Searchable Film Database http://www.afc.gov.au (2003)

18) The AFC's Searchable Film Database http://www.afc.gov.au (2003)
19) The AFC's Searchable Film Database http://www.afc.gov.au (2003)
20) Andrew L. Urban, 'Afghan Alphabet', Urban Cinephile http://www.urbancinefile.com.au (2003)
21) Independent Film http://www.if.com.au (2002)
22) Paul Davies, 'Holy Rollers', Metro Magazine #131/132, 2001 pp. 258-263
23) Ronin Films http://www.roninfilms.com.au (2003)
24) The AFC's Searchable Film Database http://www.afc.gov.au (2003)
Oz Film Database, ibid http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au (2003)
26) Michel Honegger, 'Seeking the Believers - an interview with Mojgan Khadem', Metro Magazine #131/132, 2001 pp.108-112
27) Independent Film http://www.if.com.au (2002)
29) Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), 'Kurtal - Snake Spirit', Video Program Sales Catalogue, http://www.abc.net.au (2003)
30) 'Priests 24/7', ZENIT: International News Agency for the Catholic Church http://www.zenit.org (2003)
Independent Film http://www.if.com.au (2002)