Robert Connolly

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Robert Connolly
Robert Connolly 2012.jpg
Connolly in 2012
Born1967 (age 55–56)
Occupation(s)Film director, producer, screenwriter

Robert Connolly (born 1967) is an Australian film director, producer and screenwriter based in Melbourne, Victoria. He is best known as the director and writer of the feature films Balibo, Three Dollars and The Bank, and the producer of Romulus, My Father and The Boys. He is head of the film distribution company, Footprint Films, owned by Arenafilms.

Early life and education[edit]

Connolly was born in 1967.[1] Along with David Wenham, he worked in theatre before transitioning to filmmaking. They were both involved in a production of The Boys at the Griffin Theatre Company in Sydney.[2] Connolly graduated from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in the late 1990s,[1] where he undertook a three-year course that included directing.[2]


Connolly made his first feature film as producer, The Boys in 1998, which had its world premiere in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival.[2] His first film as director, The Bank, was produced by his former mentor and later business partner at Arenafilm John Maynard.[3]

In 2007 Connolly and Maynard together produced the period immigration drama Romulus, My Father,[3] directed by Richard Roxburgh, starring Eric Bana and Franka Potente.

By 2013, he had written and directed four feature films and produced around 12 others, as well as doing work for television.[1]

He directed and produced Paper Planes (2014) and The Dry (2020),[4] and has been nominated for or won numerous Australian and international awards (see lists below).[5]


In 2009, Connolly directed Balibo, which he co-wrote with David Williamson. The film examines the politically fraught deaths of Australian-based journalists the Balibo Five and Roger East during the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. Maynard produced the film, which starred Anthony LaPaglia in the lead role of East. Balibo was the first feature to be shot in East Timor.<[6]

Indonesia continues to maintain that the Balibo Five died accidentally in crossfire as its troops battled East Timorese Fretilin rebels, a version of events accepted by successive Australian governments. But the film depicts the young journalists, who were working for Australian TV networks and presumed their nationality afforded them protection, being slaughtered on the orders of Indonesian military chiefs to prevent news of the invasion reaching the world.[7]

Connolly refuses to apologise for his film's hardline stance, stating that an Australian coroner found in 2007 that the journalists were executed as they tried to surrender to Indonesian forces. He said: "It's quite clear the journalists were murdered... The current Indonesian and Australian (Government) point of view that they were killed in crossfire is quite frankly absurd. I'd imagine the film will be confronting because it represents something contrary to the official view."[8] He points out that the East Timorese Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that up to 183,000 East Timorese people died as a result of the conflict, when the total population was only around 600,000, while both the Australian Government under the Liberals and the opposition Labor Party were focused on oil and gas resources and regional influence.[9]

Themes and views[edit]

Connolly has been definitive about his political approach to filmmaking, saying "Without a doubt, in recent times, the political agenda of the work is what drives us. We feel a responsibility to use cinema to put a blow torch to contemporary Australia and contribute to some discussion or debate about where we're headed. That's what I find most rewarding about it."[2] Three Dollars (2005), The Bank (2001) and The Boys (1998) all have a strong political agenda, and have been released in Australia as a DVD box set along with the documentary The Political Arena, which explores the social and political strands of the films.[10]

In 2008, Connolly published a white paper outlining his views on all that could be improved about the Australian film industry, which includes a ten-step plan for reducing production costs.[11]

Arenafilm and Footprint Films[edit]

Arenafilm was first incorporated in 1987 by film producer John Maynard[12][13][3] and produced The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988) and Jane Campion's film s Sweetie (1989) and An Angel at My Table (1990) (with Maynard's partner Bridget Ikin). The company went on to produce The Boys (1998) and several other of Connolly's films, including Balibo.[14] Its history is not clear, but Connolly and Maynard[2] became directors of the company during the 2000s. Connolly relocated to set up the Arenafilm Melbourne office in late 2006[10] (including Arenamedia) and subsidiary companies.[15][1]

Footprint Films is the film distribution company owned by Arenafilm.[1][a] Maynard had earlier had a production company called Footstep Films.[12] In December 2007, Film Victoria provided A$750,000 of funding to be shared among Footprint and two other companies.[17]

In 2009, Footprint Films was the Australasian distributor for Balibo and Sarah Watt's My Year Without Sex (both made by Arenafilm), and in the same year, it expanded its operations to acquire and release third-party films. Its first two distribution-only films were Warwick Thornton's Samson and Delilah, and Kriv Stenders' Lucky Country (film). The physical work of distributing is handled by Transmission Films, headed by Richard Payten and Andrew Mackie and backed by Paramount Pictures Australia. Connolly believes that it is healthy for filmmakers to become involved in distribution.[18][12]

Recognition and awards[edit]

The Boys was nominated for 13 AFI Awards including Best Film, and won awards for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. In 1998, Connolly was named by Variety as one of the 10 best emerging producers in the world.[2]

Connolly has screened his films at over 30 international film festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival and San Sebastian Film Festival. He received a Centenary Medal for services to the Australian Film Industry in 2001.[19]

Romulus, My Father won four Australian Film Institute Awards (AFI) including Best Film, and Connolly has also garnered AFI Awards for writing The Bank and Three Dollars.

Matthew Campora, head of screen studies at AFTRS, wrote in 2013 that Connolly was "a director who could be considered amongst the most successful contemporary filmmakers working in Australia today", and "Connolly’s films combine characteristics of the Hollywood thriller with archetypal Australian character types and narrative arcs to create a body of films that continue a particular style of filmmaking identified by [Graeme] Turner in the 1990s".[1]

Other roles[edit]

In 2008 Connolly was appointed to the inaugural board of Screen Australia. His term ended on 30 June 2011.[20][21]

He also served on the boards of the New South Wales Film and Television Office (FTO, predecessor to Screen NSW) and the Australian Directors Guild, as well as the University of New South Wales Dean's Council.[20]

In 2011 Connolly worked on and influenced the development of the unreleased videogame Warco, that could be used to train journalists to work and report in war-torn regions.[22]



Year Title Director Producer Writer Notes
1995 Roses Are Red
Short film
All Men Are Liars associate producer
Cinequest Film Festival – Best First Feature tied with Le secret de Jérôme
Nominated — Cinequest Film Festival Maverick Spirit Award
Nominated — AACTA Award for Best Film
Nominated — AACTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated — AACTA Award for Best Production Design
Nominated — AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1997 Rust Bucket
Short film
1998 The Boys
FCCA Award for Best Film
Nominated — AACTA Award for Best Film
2000 Better Than Sex consultant
The Monkey's Mask
2001 The Bank
AACTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
Newport Beach Film Festival Jury Award for Best Director
Newport Beach Film Festival Jury Award for Best Screenplay
Palm Springs International Film Festival - Best Director Award
Portland International Film Festival - Audience Award
Nominated — AACTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated — BAFICI Award for Best Film
Nominated — FCCA Award for Best Director
Nominated — FCCA Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated — Inside Film Award for Best Direction
Nominated — Inside Film Award for Best Script
2002 New Skin consultant producer
2005 Three Dollars
AACTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Montreal World Film Festival - Special Mention
Montreal World Film Festival - Grand Prix des Amériques
Nominated — FCCA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
2007 Romulus, My Father
Also second unit director
AACTA Award for Best Film
Nominated — FCCA Award for Best Film
West consulting producer
2009 Lucky Country executive producer
AACTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
ADG Award for Best Direction in a Feature Film
São Paulo International Film Festival - Audience Award for Best Foreign Feature Film
Nominated — AACTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated — FCCA Award for Best Director
Nominated — FCCA Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated — Inside Film Award for Best Feature Film
2013 These Final Hours executive producer
The Turning
Segment: "Aquifer"
Nominated — AACTA Award for Best Film
Nominated — AACTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated — AFCA Award for Best Film
Nominated — Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Film
The Boy Castaways executive producer
2015 Paper Planes
AACTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
FCCA Award for Best Children's Film
Jerusalem Film Festival - Cinematheque Young Critics Club Award for Best Children's Film
Nominated — AACTA Award for Best Film
Nominated — AACTA People's Choice Award for Favourite Australian Film
Nominated — ADG Award for Best Direction in a Feature Film
Nominated — AWGIE Award for Best Writing in a Feature Film - Original
Nominated — Berlin International Film Festival - Crystal Bear
Nominated — FCCA Award for Best Film
Nominated — FCCA Award for Best Script/Screenplay
Nominated — Seattle International Film Festival - Films4Families Youth Jury Award
These Final Hours Short film
executive producer
Spear executive producer
2016 Chasing Asylum Documentary
executive producer
2017 Guilty post-production
executive producer
2021 The Dry
AACTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated — AACTA Award for Best Film
Nominated — AACTA Award for Best Direction
2022 Blueback


Year Title Creator Director Producer Executive producer Writer Notes
2010 Rush
1 episode: Series 3 Episode 18
2011 The Slap
2 episodes
2012 Underground: The Julian Assange Story
Television film
AWGIE Award for Best Telemovie Adaptation
2015 Gallipoli
2016 Barracuda
2017 The Warriors
2018 Deep State
4 episodes


  1. ^ Not to be confused with the UK film production company, Footprint Films, headed by producers Mark Blaney and Jackie Sheppard, who produced Escape from Pretoria.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Campora, Matthew (December 2013). "Disrespectful Indigenisation: The Films of Robert Connolly". Contemporary Australian Filmmakers (69). Retrieved 24 November 2021 – via Senses of Cinema.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Connolly, Robert. "Robert Connolly". AUSUS Magazine (Interview). Archived from the original on 6 June 2009.
  3. ^ a b c "Jirga: Press Kit + Production Notes" (PDF). 2017. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Robert Connolly at IMDb
  5. ^ "Robert Connolly: Awards". IMDb.
  6. ^ "Balibo". Variety (magazine). 23 July 2009. Archived from the original on 2 August 2009.
  7. ^ "Indonesia 'tortured' Balibo Five". BBC News. 24 July 2009. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  8. ^ "Balibo 'should prompt war crime charges'". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  9. ^ Connolly, Robert (17 August 2009). "Director Robert Connolly speaks with WSWS". World Socialist Web Site (Interview). Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  10. ^ a b "About us: Robert Connolly". Arenafilm. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  11. ^ Connolly, Robert. "Embracing Innovation: a new methodology for feature film production in Australia". AFTRS. Archived from the original on 2 October 2009.
  12. ^ a b c "Producer Case Study: John Maynard". Producer Case Study. 15 October 2009. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  13. ^ "Arenafilm Pty Ltd ACN 003 242 519". ASIC. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  14. ^ "All titles produced by Arenafilm". Australian Screen. National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 25 November 2021.
  15. ^ "About Us". Arenamedia. Retrieved 25 November 2021.
  16. ^ "About us". Footprint Films (UK). Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  17. ^ "Film Vic grants $750k to three companies.(Brief article)". Encore Magazine. Reed Business Information Ltd. 25 (12): 8(1). 1 December 2007. ISSN 0815-2063 – via Trove. Film Victoria has allocated $750,000 in Slate Funding support to be shared by Arenafilm Melbourne, Burberry Productions and Southern Arc Films. Arenafilm Melbourne is the new arm Robert Connolly...
  18. ^ George, Sandy (20 April 2009). "Australia's Footprint Films expands local distribution". Screen. Retrieved 25 November 2021.
  19. ^ "Robert Connolly in conversation with Andrew Urban". 2 March 2009. Archived from the original (Text only (podcast link is dead).) on 26 September 2009.
  20. ^ a b Screen Australia (October 2009). "Screen Australia Annual Report 2008/09" (PDF). Annual Report. Screen Australia: 6–8. ISSN 1837-2740. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  21. ^ "Screen Australia welcomes new Board members Claudia Karvan and Richard Keddie". Screen Australia. 10 July 2012. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  22. ^ Webster, Andrew (21 September 2011). "Warco: an FPS where you hold a camera instead of a gun". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2021.

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