Ground Zero (1987 film)
Avenue Pictures (US)
|1 October 1987|
|Box office||A$178,576 (Australia)|
Ground Zero is a 1987 Australian drama-thriller about a cinematographer who, prompted by curiosity about some old film footage taken by his father, embarks on a quest to find out the truth about British nuclear tests at Maralinga. It stars actors Colin Friels, Jack Thompson and Indigenous activist Burnum Burnum.
Production and cast
Ground Zero was produced in 1986 and released in 1987. IMDb, and the DVD release of the film, both credit Michael Pattinson and Bruce Myles as producers, but only Pattinson is named in other sources. Pattinson went on to direct several other Australian feature films, including Wendy Cracked a Walnut (1990), Secrets (1992), One Crazy Night (1993) and The Limbic Region (1997). Myles did not go on to other directing, but acted in numerous subsequent Australian films, including The Bank (2001).
Context of the film
In the 1950s, the British government had conducted a number of nuclear tests at a site called Maralinga in outback South Australia. It was subsequently demonstrated by medical evidence, witness statements and archive documents that during those tests, armed forces personnel and Indigenous Australians were exposed to nuclear fallout that affected their health and reduced their lifespan. This led eventually to a major inquiry, the McClelland Royal Commission, which reported in 1985. The inquiry attracted a lot of publicity, and ultimately a deal was struck with the United Kingdom to fund rehabilitation of the test sites.
Ground Zero was made immediately following this inquiry. While fictional, it explores the idea that the exposure to radiation of Indigenous people and army personnel may have been deliberate, or known about at the time and concealed. The political topicality of the film at the time of its release was reflected in the profile of some of the actors involved: Colin Friels has played a number of roles involving social activism, most notably years later in the Australian television miniseries Bastard Boys; Burnum Burnum was a long-time Indigenous rights activist; while Jack Thompson had previously played a leading role in another film sharply critical of the British military: Breaker Morant.
Reception and legacy
Despite its success at the 1987 AFI Awards, reviews of the film were mixed. Pointing out that the film contained elements of both action thriller and political commentary, reviewers were unsure that it did either with great success. However, Janet Maslin, reviewing the film for the New York Times, wrote of "taut, clever conspiracy-theory thrillers, of which the new Australian film Ground Zero is a prime example".
Ground Zero has been rated at 6.4 stars out of 10 on IMDb.
|Colin Friels||Harvey Denton|
|Donald Pleasence||Prosper Gaffney|
|Natalie Bate||Pat Denton|
|Burnum Burnum||Yami Lester|
|Simon Chilvers||Commission president|
|Beverley Dunn||Commissioner #1|
|Alan Hopgood||Commissioner #2|
|Peter Cummins||Ballantyne, Australian veteran|
|Brian James||Vice-Adm. Windsor|
|Steve Dodd||Freddy Tjapalijarri|
|Alfred Austen||Aboriginal elder|
Awards and nominations
AFI Awards, 1987
- Won: Best Achievement in Cinematography
- Won: Best Achievement in Editing
- Won: Best Achievement in Production Design
- Won: Best Achievement in Sound
- Nominated: Best Actor
- Nominated: Best Supporting Actor
- Nominated: Best Director
- Nominated: Best Film
- Nominated: Best Original Screenplay
- Nominated: Golden Berlin Bear
Ground Zero grossed $178,576 at the box office in Australia.
- "Australian Productions Top $175 million", Cinema Papers, March 1986 p64
- Hall, Sandra (1992). Australian Film Index: A Guide to Australian Feature Films Since 1990. Port Melbourne: Thorpe.
- IMDb, Ground Zero. Retrieved 27 February 2009.
- Gardner, Geoff (1995). 'Ground Zero', in Murray, Scott (ed.), Australian Film 1978-1994: A Survey of Theatrical Features. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, Australian Film Commission and Cinema Papers.
- Yahoo! Movies, Michael Pattinson film credits. Retrieved 13 March 2009.
- Yahoo! Movies, Bruce Myles filmography. Retrieved 13 March 2009.
- Cinephilia, Review of Ground Zero. Retrieved 13 March 2009.
- David Stratton, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan MacMillan, 1990 p249
- Norst, Marlene (1999). Burnum Burnum: A Warrior for Peace. Roseville NSW: Kangaroo Press.
- Hinson, Hal (30 September 1988). "Ground Zero (review)". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
- Maslin, Janet (23 September 1988). "'Ground Zero (1987): A nuclear cover-up in Australia". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
- "Berlinale: 1988 Programme". berlinale.de. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
- Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office