Friday 24 July 2015

Bringing back the Past (2) - Not so easy for the local little guys but they battle on

Following on from the previous post, Leth Maitland the Secretary of the WEA Sydney Film Society has been in touch to advise that for the smallest among us who like to get together, watch and discuss movies and who for decades have relied first on the National Library and later the National Film & Sound Archive to supply classics old and new, rarities, otherwise unavailable Australian films, experimental work and more, things are getting increasingly difficult in very practical ways. 

Leth writes to show how sometimes it’s not made easy at all for enthusiasts.  "The WEA Sydney Film Society wanted to screen THE 39 STEPS (Alfred Hitchcock, UK, 1935). The NFSA however cancelled the booking because they had let the rights lapse. The local art film distributor Madman  has released the film locally on DVD, but said they had no non-theatrical rights. NFSA had originally directed would-be borrowers to Madman, but if not, Park Circus,  the Glasgow based company which controls the world rights should be contacted. Park Circus responded very promptly and courteously, but in answer to our request to license a screening for likely to between 10 and 20 people, the answer was 250 Australian dollars payable by Paypal. 

Films from European sources are even more problematic.

The exception is Goethe-Institut. It is coming to our rescue by still licensing titles worldwide but they are kind of the last in what was once a significant source of programing for film societies in Australia. 

Finally, the NFSA is now not licensing Australian titles if they are "commercially available" which is a bit of a movable feast.

Leth has just sent round the WEA Sydney Film Society's fortnightly program for August to December 2015. If you would like to receive a copy by email setting out all the details and accompanied by some excellent program notes contact   


  1. Leth has a point but like books, music and everything else produced and published by someone at their own expense, not everything is going to be available in this world at all times and cheaply. I began in film societies in 1951 and that was true then (more so). One moves with the moment.

  2. Further to the editor's comment on WEA SFS program notes, which truly are excellent in the traditional mode, efforts are being made to have a set of those notes back to 1980s installed at NFSA. They would then be one of the world's best guides to programmers -- and all for material that has been available in Australia.


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