From Furiosa to Nicolas Cage: 10 Australian films to watch in 2024

Australian cinema in 2024 looks set to offer plenty of exciting sights and sounds – from desert-set dystopian carnage to an investigation into Mozart’s long-neglected sister. Here are 10 films to look out for.

1. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

Mad Max: Fury Road delivered a ton of surprises, including a female lead – Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa – as badass as the titular Road Warrior. Acknowledging that de-ageing technology still creates an uncanny valley effect, director George Miller cast Anya Taylor-Joy as a younger version of the famed character. The plot of this origin story follows the early years of Furiosa, who, as the trailer recaps, was “taken from her family” and “will devote the rest of her life to finding her way home”. Expect another explode-a-palooza and chase scenes aplenty. Witness!

2. Force of Nature: The Dry 2

Eric Bana’s federal police agent Aaron Falk, who investigated the apparent murder-suicide of an old friend in The Dry, is back for another outdoorsy adventure based on a Jane Harper novel. This time the action looks wetter and greener, in director Robert Connolly depiction of the fictional Giralang Ranges, where five women participate in a corporate hiking retreat but only four make it back. There’s also (in the book, at least) an unsolved mystery involving a local serial killer, all of which ticks the boxes marked “dramatic intrigue”. Let’s hope the sequel is as good as the first.

3. Mozart’s Sister

Maria-Anna Mozart was a child prodigy, like her more famous younger brother Wolfgang. But she was also a woman living in the 18th century, retiring at age 18 because “a little girl could perform and tour, but a woman doing so risked her reputation”. Described as a “musical mystery”, director Madeleine Hetherton-Miau’s documentary (not to be confused with the 2011 feature film of the same name) explores the theory that Maria-Anna’s cultural impact has been obscured and minimised, like countless other women throughout history.

4. Memoir of a Snail

The great stop-motion animator Adam Elliot has directed only one feature film to date and it was a doozy: the moving and idiosyncratic Mary and Max. That arrived 15 years ago, so it’s well time for another feature. Memoir of a Snail sounds deliciously Elliot-esque, being a “bittersweet remembrance of Grace Puddle”, who’s a “lonely hoarder of ornamental snails living in Canberra”. If you’re unfamiliar with Elliot’s work, his Oscar-winning short Harvey Krumpet is a good place to start.

5. Every Little Thing

The recent All That Breathes (nominated for best documentary at last year’s Oscars) is a gorgeously cinematic film about two brothers in Delhi who nurse injured black kites back to health. The latest documentary from Sally Aitken (who recently directed Hot Potato: The Story of the Wiggles) explores a similar topic, following LA-based woman Terri Masear, who nurtures wounded hummingbirds. It’ll premiere at this year’s Sundance film festival.

6. The Surfer

An Australian film starring Nicolas Cage? Yes please! The actor plays an Aussie surfer who, after years living in the United States, returns to his small home town. Standing up to ruffians, he is, like lots of great Cage characters, put through the wringer. His character’s many years living in the US provides a narrative justification for Cage not attempting the (notoriously difficult) Australian accent. The director is Lorcan Finnegan, who made the wildly surreal 2019 thriller Vivarium.

7. Spit

David Wenham’s performance as junkie and small-time crook Johnny “Spit” Spitieri in the 2003 crime film Gettin’ Square is comedy gold. Therefore news that a belated sequel is in the works, titled Spit, comes as a welcome surprise. I can’t wait to see what Wenham does with an older, presumably not all that wiser version of the character, who returns to Australia to find himself locked up in an immigration detention centre. This one’s just been announced, so it’s more likely to arrive in 2025 – but I couldn’t resist including it.

8. The Moogai

Indigenous Australian horror is largely untapped cinematic terrain, instantly making Jon Bell’s feature debut – expanding his 2015 short, which you can check out on SBS on Demand – a feature of note. Like the short, the film centres around a married Aboriginal couple who have a second child and the mother (Shari Sebbens) haunted by an evil spirit she believes is trying to take her babies. This film made last year’s list, but it’s coming in 2024 and premiering at Sundance.

9. Journey Home: David Gulpilil

The late, great, inimitable David Gulpilil received a cinematic living wake with Molly Reynolds’ amazing documentary My Name is Gulpilil. He’s the subject of another doco, this one based after his death, exploring the return of his body to his birthplace. The centrepiece of which, according to the official synopsis, “is his Bäpurru ceremony in Marayuwu near the Arafura Swamp and the remote community of Ramingining”.

10. Birdeater

Debuting at last year’s Sydney film festival, where it won the audience award, this psychological thriller from co-directors Jack Clark and Jim Weir has been described as a work “inspired by the likes of Wake in Fright”. A bride-to-be (Shabana Azeez) attends the buck’s party of her fiance (Mackenzie Fearnley), where all sorts of terrible things unfold. The pair learn to put aside their differences and live happily ever af … actually, it doesn’t sound like that kind of story. One review described it as a “profoundly horrific” film that’s “uncompromising in its vision of masculinity unleashed”.

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