It's a tribute to the richness of the UCLA Film and Television Archive's comprehensive "Back of Beyond: Discovering Australian Film and Television" survey that a random selection of two of this week's offerings yields splendid diversity. For example, Pat Fiske's "Australia Daze" (1988) and James Clayden's "The Hour Before My Brother Dies" (1986) couldn't be more different, yet they are both equally rewarding.
Last January, Australia celebrated its bicentennial, which was highlighted by a re-enactment of the fleet of 11 tall ships that dropped anchor in Sydney Harbor on Jan. 16, 1788. Pat Fiske, leading a team of 27 film makers, has commemorated the anniversary with the 65-minute "Australia Daze" (the final offering of Saturday evening's program), an utterly captivating account of how an extremely wide cross section of Aussies felt about the milestone. In general, the film is a portrait of a society divided by color: the white conquerors and the native blacks. "40,000 Years of Dream Time, 200 Years of Nightmares" proclaims a banner at a Sydney rally of aborigines that attracted more than 15,000 participants. As it turned out, the counter-celebration proved to be a momentous occasion for the aborigines, bringing them together as never before and enabling them to dramatize their protest of two centuries of dispossession and second-class citizenship.