When Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (1981) was shown to me, I was a mere five year old girl, watching for two important reasons. The first being that I am a half-caste Maori, with a Maori father and an Australian mother, and roots connecting back to the ANZACs and the tragic unfolding that happened in Gallipoli in 1915. The second being, because my grandmother Merekaraka Tipoki-Caesar played a small, but identifiable role in the film. A madam in Cairo, telling Frank (Mel Gibson), Jack (Bill Kerr), Snowy (David Argue) and Billy (Robert Grubb) that her women were clear of sexually transmitted diseases as they are passing through, about to pay for sexual acts the night before they are sent out to battle. Filmed in Adelaide, my Grandmother made friends with Peter Weir, and originally took her dance group of young Maori women to be extras in this scene – but upon arrival, Weir had decided he was to place her in the scene. A fun fact – My Uncle Tane (Caesar), was also taken to set, where he would also be in this scene and Weir would ask him and some of the young Maori men to perform a Haka, which he filmed and intended to place in the film. It was later cut. Gallipoli (1981), not only helped form my sense of national identity, but Australia’s as a whole – as it launches the Australian film industry to whole new heights, putting Australia on the map as serious filmmakers.
“Film plays a crucial role in the formation of national identity, and an equally important part in providing interpretations of history… Nations often identify themselves by glorifying key moments in their history, and film and television interpretations then bring these events to life in a more immediate way than any other form of communication. Peter Weir’s Gallipoli is a film about an historical event that played a key role in shaping Australia’s perception of itself, and its qualities, as a nation. To Australian and world audiences, the film took on an added significance for it also marked the coming-of-age of the Australian film industry. Few moments of Australian history had ever been put on film before, and so Gallipoli brought to world audiences an Australia shaped by an Australian cast and crew (Connelly, M., 2007, pp. 41).”
The personal family connection to the film aside, it is undeniable that Gallipoli helped to shape not only my sense of national identity, but help Australia and it’s people as a whole, forming this sense of national identity through the film – as we reflect on what was a reality for our people in 1915.
- Gallipoli, V.H.S., 1981. directed by Peter Weir. Sydney: Roadshow.
- Connelly, M., 2007. Gallipoli (1981): ‘A Poignant Search for National Identity’. In The New Film History (pp. 41-54). Palgrave Macmillan, London.