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Director: Ili Baré
Producers: Charlotte Wheaton & Nick Batzias
Executive Producer: Virgina Whitwell
Relive the most thrilling moments of Australia’s beloved tennis tournament in this chronicle of its ascent to top-seed status on the global stage.
The Australian Open is one of the world’s four tennis Grand Slams, but its early days in 1970s Kooyong were humble – a far cry from its current, massive, home at Melbourne Park. Now the highest-profile sporting event in the country, the Open has hosted innumerable tennis legends and iconic matches, such as Serena and Venus Williams’s finals clash in 2017. Infamous for the larrikinism of its crowd, it has also become both a celebration of greatness and a site for the playing-out of social issues, from Aboriginal and queer representation to border control.
This heart-pumping documentary from The Leadership (MIFF 2020) director Ili Baré thrusts you back to the stadium roars and down-the-line shots, interweaving archival material with footage from some of the Open’s most legendary games. Featuring interviews with sports journalists (Tracey Holmes, George Megalogenis), industry figures (Paul McNamee, Craig Tiley), and players old and new (Pat Cash, Rennae Stubbs, Liam Broady), it also explores sport’s relationship with patriotic pride, athletes’ duality as heroes and humans, and the controversies courted by this million-dollar business. From the producers of The Australian Dream (MIFF 2019) and supported by the MIFF Premiere Fund, Australia’s Open is a candid account that illuminates just how entwined the stories of the tournament and the nation truly are.
As with Baré’s previous film The Leadership, the documentary format is used to explore the foundations and machinations of society, said The Curb. To paraphrase one commentator, the Australian Open became ‘almost like a person in itself,’ and it’s in this notion of personification that Australia’s Open truly shines, as Baré treats the narrative of tennis as less of an examination of the sport, and more of an exploration of the personality of the event. For those who are sports-agnostic, or even atheistic to the point that you like to throw the term ‘sportsball’ around as a pejorative statement, then rest assured that Australia’s Open is a genuinely compelling and riveting experience that engages on a level grander than the mere spectacle of the sport itself.