Produced by the South Australian Film Corporation, directed by Ken Hannam and released in 1975, Sunday Too Far Away is set on an isolated shearing station in Queensland in the 1950s. The film focuses on aspects of masculinity, mateship and Australian identity in documenting the daily life of shearers in the lead up to a major strike in 1956 which affected workers in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Main character Foley, played by Jack Thompson, finds himself and his fellow shearers in conflict upon the arrival of non-union “scab” labour, against a backdrop of masculine competitiveness and homosociality (Danks, 2008). According to Adrian Danks, the film is a blend of nuanced realism and drama, with aspects of “ocker” Australian comedy as well as setting something of an archetype for the “AFC genre”. The term AFC genre was coined by Elizabeth Jacka and Susan Dermody in 1988 for films that can be endorsed as “proudly Australian”, encouraged and/or subsidised by the Australian Film Commission. The film’s release and enthusiastic reception at the Cannes film festival, as well as the film’s opening of the Sydney film festival, were followed by the release of Peter Weir’s iconic Picnic at Hanging Rock later the same year garnering similar responses in film circles (although the latter is an example of non-“ocker” cinematic fare). These developments are part of “the turning point in Australian feature film production, at least critically and in terms of international exposure” (Danks, 2008). A renewed interest in the production and popularity of Australian films around this time is commonly referred to as the “Australian new wave”. Although critically acclaimed overseas, Sunday Too Far Away received “indifferent” box office takings outside Australia (Stratton, 1980, p105).
In Australia, the Film Censorship Board (FCB) found the “emotional impact generated by the interpersonal conflicts” and the “sheer quantity” of the coarse language warranted an M for mature audiences on the film’s cinematic release. However, Board members predominantly found the frequent coarse language to be used unsensationally and “in context”. When it came to the FCB’s classification of the film for TV in 1977, Board members were bound to different legislation and guidelines. Available classification categories for television were: G, for general exhibition, PGR, parental guidance recommended, and AO for adults only, as well as NST, not suitable for television. Board members found the language to be “an integral part of the film’s authenticity” and observed the film’s considerable social merit which warranted further discussion about community expectations of such language on TV. The classification file illustrates the word “fuck” was expressly against policy for TV. Board members eventually decided the film could be screened on TV as AO, either by eliminating three uses of the word “fucking” or under the condition of a late time slot. The producers preferred to cut use of the word rather than implement a later screening. – Rachel Cole
Notes: For information on the prolonged editing process of Sunday Too Far Away before the film’s release, see: Stratton, 1980, p101 – 105.
Image sourced from mubi.com
Book. Dermody, S. & Jacka, E. (1988) The Screening of Australia, Volume 2, Anatomy of a National Cinema, Sydney: Currency Press.
Book. Stratton, D. (1980) The Last New Wave, Sydney: Angus & Robertson Publishers.
News article. “The 1956 shearer’s strike” Bush Telegraph, ABC Rural, 20/09/2009, accessed at https://www.abc.net.au/site-archive/rural/content/2006/s1745345.htm
Newspaper review. Danks, A. (2008), “Sunday too far away”. Metro : Media & Education Magazine, pp.94-102. Proquest database.
Notes from the classification file. Australian Classification Board and Classification Branch (1975) Sunday Too Far Away, ACB archive.