The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (film)

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The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith
Directed by Fred Schepisi
Produced by Fred Schepisi
Written by Fred Schepisi
Based on novel by Thomas Keneally
Starring Tom E. Lewis
Angela Punch McGregor
Music by Bruce Smeaton
Cinematography Ian Baker
Edited by Brian Kavanagh
Distributed by Hoyts
Umbrella Entertainment
Release dates
  • 21 June 1978 (1978-06-21)
Running time
120 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Budget A$1,200,000[1]
Box office A$1,021,000 (Australia)

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is a 1978 Australian drama film directed by Fred Schepisi, and starring Tom E. Lewis (billed at the time as Tommy Lewis), Freddy Reynolds and Ray Barrett.[2] It is an adaptation of the novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith by Thomas Keneally.

The story is about an exploited Aboriginal Australian who commits murder and goes into hiding. It is based on actual events surrounding Jimmy Governor.

For Schepisi the film's reception was a disillusioning experience and he left Australia soon after to work in Hollywood, returning to Australia ten years later to make Evil Angels.[3][4]



The film's budget was raised from a variety of sources; $350,000 plus a loan of $50,000 from the Australian Film Commission, $350,000 from the Victorian Film Corporation, $200,000 from Hoyts, $250,000 from Schepisi.[1]

Tommy Lewis was spotted by Fred Schepisi's wife at Melbourne airport just walking past. He was approached and was eventually cast.[5]

Filming began on 8 August 1977 and went for fourteen weeks through the studio Industrial Entertainment.


The film won the Best Original Music Score (Bruce Smeaton), Best Actress in a Lead Role (Angela Punch McGregor) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ray Barrett) and was nominated for 9 more awards at the Australian Film Institute (AFI) for 1978. It was also nominated for the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival.[6]

The novel was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1972, losing to John Berger's G.

Box office[edit]

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith grossed $1,021,000 at the box office in Australia.[7] Because of the promotional costs involved, only $50,000 was returned to the producers. Schepisi lost his entire investment.[1]

Home media[edit]

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith was released on DVD with a new print by Umbrella Entertainment in November 2008. The DVD is compatible with all region codes and includes special features such as the theatrical trailer and audio commentary with Fred Schepisi. The 30th Anniversary Edition also includes interviews with key cast and crew including Fred Schepisi and Tommy Lewis, a Q&A session with Fred Schepisi and Geoffrey Rush filmed at the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2008, a stills gallery and Making Us Blacksmiths, a documentary on the casting of Aboriginal lead actors Tommy Lewis and Freddy Reynolds.[8][9]


"The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith" by Australian roots-rock band The Groovesmiths is also based on the story.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c David Stratton, The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival, Angus & Robertson, 1980 p134-137
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith at the Australian screen
  4. ^ Murray, Scott; (ed.) (1994). Australian Cinema. St.Leonards, NSW.: Allen & Unwin/AFC. p. 85isbn=1863733116. 
  5. ^ David Roe & Scott Murray, "Fred Schepisi", Cinema Papers, January 1978 p244-246, 269
  6. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith". Retrieved 21 May 2009. 
  7. ^ Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
  8. ^ "Umbrella Entertainment - 30th Anniversary Edition". Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  9. ^ "Umbrella Entertainment - Single DVD". Retrieved 8 May 2013. 

External links[edit]