David Stratton: a cinematic life

Biographical documentary, national cinematic history, or both?

In 2017, the 3-part series, David Stratton’s Stories of Australian Cinema aired on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). It was a re-edit of an original 102-minute documentary David Stratton: a cinematic life (2017), into three one-hour thematic television documentaries. The television series created a different narrative to the original documentary, raising questions about how form affects content. The documentary focuses on the life story of a man whose life has been shaped by film. In comparison, the television series subtly re-focused the content, putting the films discussed far more at the centre of the narrative, with the biographical story of Stratton taking a secondary role. This paper explores the subtle differences between the two versions and what they reveal about the relationship between form and content. It also compares how Stratton’s personal story, in both versions, intersects with the evolution of the Australia’s national cinema. Both versions offer the opportunity to consider how a history is constructed by, and around Stratton, as well as looking at the idea of telling the story of Australian cinema through the form of a personal documentary.

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[For more about the television series and documentary visit Transmission Films]