Skip to main content


Australia, 1990 (MIFF 1991)

Director: Ross Gibson

From its striking opening sequence of (seemingly) casual observations from a bus window, Dead To The World looks, feels and sounds different from any Australian film we've seen. It bravely and successfully sweeps aside Australian cinema's traditional predilection with naturalism, in favour of a bold and genuinely original style.

it's a finely crafted work from Sydney based collective Huzzah Productions (Cruthers, Parr, Plain and Gibson), who share creative credit alongside their individual contributions.

The setting is the inner-city Sydney suburb of Newtown, the centre of a property redevelopment boom. The warehouse building that includes the once lively Newtown Boxing Gym is now ripe for redevelopment and the scent of money has lured out a colourful collection of vermin keen to change tum-of-the-century-sweatshops into loft apartments for the burgeoning yuppie class. The struggle to retain the gym from the encroachment of corrupt capital is the moral axis on which the film turns, but this is no sentimental, nostalgic longing for a bygone era and its associated values - Dead To The World looks the present day straight in the face, and it's not pretty.

It's a classic post-modernist piece, combining numerous influences into a fresh, original whole: imagine a cocktail of Johnny Guitar, Jacobean drama, Blue Velvet, the tough Hollywood 'problem' films of the 30's and 40's.

There is so much to admire about Dead To The World, chiefly Jane Castle's astounding cinematography which is always inventive, but crucially, always serving the film rather than merely some visual whim. The soundtrack has also received special attention in production. In an unusual move for an Australian feature, every sound, every line of dialogue, has been recreated in the studio, resulting in a state-of-the-art feel that turns the aural into a vital element of the film's rich texture; in Dead to the World it fairly leaps of the screen at us. Look, listen, learn and laugh. (T.B.)

See also...


Wild focuses on the stories and legends of one tract of land, the Pilliga Forest in northwest New South Wales. How do the dynamic processes of history and ecology work to produce meanings, warnings ... More »

Camera Natura

A film on the history of white Australian landscape fantastic protections, fields of vision, crash sites, proving grounds Tracing 200 years of images of the continent it charts the contours of a ... More »

Myths and Legends

When the magical world of two young boys and the junkyard where they share games and stories and hunt for lost treasure is disrupted by a gang of bullies, the boys call on a mythical creature, the ... More »

Boy Soldiers

The Australian Children's Television Foundation produced Boy Soldiers as part of the new "More Winners" series. This is another series which attempts to raise issues not normally touched on in ... More »

His Master's Ghost

A vacation music camp, an old country estate, a mysterious caretaker who can fix his eye on the students and make them play like virtuosos and the unexplained death of a musician who loved Beethoven ... More »

...In A Few Words...

A child tries to string meaningful phrases together. A young man finds no string to tie. A film where the cast of extras have remained long after the lead roles have left. ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director