Environmental Exchanges - Belinda Smaill

Poster with text that reads Belinda Smaill 9 August 2023 12:30 to 1:45pm environmental exchanges seminar series centre for environmental history

This semester, the Centre for Environmental History's Environmental Exchanges seminar series will include four fantastic papers from a diverse group of historians on the theme 'extraction'. All seminars will be held both in person, and online (Zoom links will be provided via Eventbrite closer to the date).

The first Environmental Exchanges seminar of our 'extraction' series in Semester 2 2023 will be the following paper from Professor Belinda Smaill:

From Extraction to Wilderness: The Last Wild River and Rethinking the Transformations of 1970s Australian Film Culture

The 1970s was a pivotal time for Australian cinema and for the nation’s environmental movement. Much is now known about how, in the 1970s, a new culture of narrative feature film, exemplified by Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1976), looked to the Australian bush and the outback as it formulated a distinctive national cinema. While this cinema tied national identity to the landscape, filmmakers and activists interested in documentary turned to the natural world in a different way, politicising images and contesting uses of the environment that had come before. The successful battle to save the Franklin River from hydro development has been well chronicled, as has the revival of the feature film industry. Offering new insights into an unwritten dimension of the nation’s audio-visual heritage, this talk examines the films that supported the Franklin campaign. It charts the depictions of resource extraction that were widespread in mid-century filmmaking and argues that a changing idea about the environment emerged in sound and image with the cycle of films produced prior and during the campaign. It addresses the little discussed dialogue between histories of film and environmental history.

Belinda Smaill is Professor of Film and Screen Studies at Monash University. She has been researching nonfiction and documentary screen culture for more than two decades. Recently her work has focused on the ethical, cultural and institutional issues that pertain to the presentation of the environment and biodiversity on screen. She is the author of The Documentary: Politics, Emotion, Culture (2010) and Regarding Life: Animals and the Documentary Moving Image (2016). She has published widely in international journals including Screen, Camera Obscura and the Journal of Environmental Media. She is currently lead investigator on the ARC funded project, 'Remaking the Australian Environment Through Documentary Film and Television'.

When: 9 August 2023,12:30-1:45pm (Canberra time)

Where: Room 6.71, RSSS Building, ANU & Online via Zoom

Zoom links for joining the event remotely will be circulated in the days ahead of the event. Ensure you register early to receive the link.

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Date & time

Wed 09 Aug 2023, 12.30–1.45pm


Room 6.71, RSSS Building, 146 Ellery Crescent, ANU


Belinda Smaill


Centre for Environmental History


Jess Urwin


Updated:  19 July 2023/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications