It is July and Richmond are teetering on a spot in the top eight in the Australian Football League (AFL), a sport that is akin to a religion in Melbourne. It’s an average high of 13 degrees and the chilly southerly wind whips my face every time I venture outdoors. In a city like Melbourne football is the glue that binds people together during its coldest months; it’s an irrefutable salvation against the oppressive weather. I check social media and see some friends partying in heatwave-ridden Europe. I begin to wonder what it must be like to have the most desirable weather at the same time as having the greatest antidote to winter – football. Such a quintessentially paradoxical hypothetical could only be considered in a city like Melbourne where the yearning to leave is most immense during winter. Such is the dilemma of Doug (John Flaus) and Aub (Bob Carl), who are the main characters in John Ruane’s gritty social-realist film titled Queensland from 1976. They are two hard-edged men that work in factories, drink at the pub and walk around the streets of Melbourne telling bad jokes and forgettable stories.

For Doug, the premise which plagues Samuel Beckett’s characters in Waiting for Godot (a play wherein a bedraggled entourage of characters sit around talking and awaiting the titular character to appear) is already an ultimatum – he desperately wants to leave cold Melbourne and travel to tropical Queensland. Upon hearing Doug’s frequent lamentations, the advertisement jingle, “where else but…Queensland” which played on television as a kid, still jovially rings in my head. Doug spends the entire short film ruminating to Aub about how in Queensland, “there’s money. Weather. Fucking everything – Jesus.” Aub isn’t as keen – he still needs to repay a loan shark to retrieve his car. Doug’s disorganised lifestyle is made more chaotic when he must reconcile with his former flame Marge (Alison Bird).

Queensland highlights the Melbourne inner-city when it was at cross-roads. The film documents the gritty factories in Clifton Hill, Northcote and Collingwood (the chocolate factory featured in the film was located here). 1976 was an important junction in the process of deindustrialisation and subsequent gentrification of the inner city in Melbourne and all cities in Australia. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam Australia cut tariffs by 25 per cent, leading to an exponential increase in competition from countries like China. The production of locally manufactured clothes began to decrease and the factories that littered the inner city became redundant or converted into houses. This made the areas more desirable for white-collar workers like teachers and academics, who began to displace the working-class and migrant communities. It is during this schism in time that we meet Aub and Doug who work lousy manufacturing jobs. Ruane admits that the film is “about a vanishing breed of Australians.”1 Namely, the blue-collar workers that run the factories using their bare hands. This gritty portrayal of the inner-city is evocative of a broader social-realist film movement that resounded in Melbourne.

Queensland is best understood as a social-realist film and in Susan Dermody and Elizabeth Jacka’s book The Screening of Australia: Anatomy of A Film Industry it receives this definition alongside Sunday, Too Far Away (Ken Hannam, 1975), Stir (Stephen Wallace, 1980) and Mouth to Mouth (John Duigan, 1978). According to Dermody and Jacka, the social-realist film is a distinct genre typified by “a politically radical impulse and values generally absent from the almost offensively inoffensive AFC [Australian Film Commission] genre.”2 Ruane’s film evades explicit politicisation – there aren’t many references to student politics or explicit discussion of class. However, the shabby locations like Aub and Doug’s dreary boarding home and shot locations which feature the slowly deindustrialising cityscape around Collingwood and Northcote mean the film concerns itself with the little man and the repercussions society has for him.

The stripped back crew and tight budget of Queensland (the film cost $12,000 to make) is highlighted by the funding of the Experimental Film and Television Fund (EFTF), who chipped in $6,500.3 The EFTF were one of the bastions of the Australian Film Revival and part of a three-pronged attack to combat the wallowing film industry, which included a film commission for commercial features (the Australian Film Development Commission); and a film school to ensure ‘disciplined’ filmmaking (the Australian Film and Television School). The limitations of Queensland’s budget are exposed in John O’Hara’s feature article in Cinema Papers from January 1977 where he explains, “th[e] episodic or even fragmented quality about the film is due partly to changes in sounds and light from one scene to another, as though there hasn’t been time to match things up exactly; and partly due to unexpected changes in the camera’s perspective on the action.”4 Whilst the film is a mishmash of competent and chaotic filmmaking, Ruane’s fiercely independent style of film production is displayed throughout.

The film ends with a spectacular closing single-shot that pans for many minutes before closing to the credits. We follow Doug, dejected and frustrated as his car keeps breaking down, through the streets of Northcote, somewhere near the Westgarth theatre. Ruane says in an interview conducted at the Thornbury Picture House in early 2023 that he “wondered if [the crew] could get a crane” to shoot this magnificent shot. Once he found a crane, he asked how much it would cost to rent for two hours and it “wasn’t much.”5 To ensure the pavement was wet, Ruane contacted the Northcote City Council and “they came out with a water truck and for a slab of beer [the council did] it.”6 This final shot perfectly captures the moment when Doug desperately seeks autonomy and feels the urgency to escape Melbourne’s crippling climate…possibly to Queensland?

Queensland (1976 Australia 52 mins)

Prod Co: Film Noir Productions Prod: Chris Fitchett Dir: John Ruane Scr: John Ruane, Ellery Ryan Phot: Ellery Ryan Ed: Mark Norfolk

Cast: John Flaus, Bob Karl, Alison Bird, Tom Broadbridge, Jack Mobbs


  1. John Ruane, “Interview,” 12 January 2013, accessed 20 February 2024: https://archive.md/20130112040317/http://www.signis.net/malone/tiki-index.php?page=John+Ruane&bl.
  2. Susan Dermody and Elizabeth Jacka, The Screening of Australia: Anatomy of a Film Industry Volume 1 (Sydney: Currency Press, 1987), p. 40.
  3. Ken Berryman, Experimental Film and Television Fund (1970 – 1978): Completed Productions & Grant Recipients (1985), p. 31.
  4. John O’Hara, “Queensland,” Cinema Papers, Number 4, Issue 11 (1977): p. 269.
  5. Bill Mousoulis, “Unknown Pleasures: QUEENSLAND by John Ruane, Q&A, March 2023,” YouTube (8 April 2023): https://youtu.be/fJJR2kw749Q?si=y6Z5dMmdCr539Y9L. Filmed 28 March 2023 at Thornbury Picture House.
  6. Ibid.

About The Author

Digby is a film critic, filmmaker and screenwriter from Melbourne. He is interested in the intersection between history and film and completed his Honours thesis on late 1970s Australian cinema in 2022. He is also co-editor and co-creator of KinoTopia and his writing can be found here.

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