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The dish

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Based on a true story, The dish follows the emotions, drama and laughter behind the four-day Apollo XI mission in July 1969 and the extraordinary role Australia played. NASA originally intended Australian radio telescopes to be used as back-up to the prime receiver in Goldstone, California. But a last minute flight schedule change meant that telescopes in the southern hemisphere would be in a position to receive the famous images.

Australia would broadcast man walking on the moon to the entire world.

The dish looks at one of the telescopes at Parkes in country New South Wales, Australia. Standing strong to this day, the radio telescope is as wide as a football oval, weighs 1000 tons and can be pointed virtually in any direction.

At this dish we meet our reluctant heroes... Cliff Buxton (Sam Neil), Ross "Mitch" Mitchell (Kevin Harrington) and Glenn Latham (Tom Long), the Australians responsible for operating the massive facility for the broadcast of man's first steps on the moon. Joining them is NASA representative Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton).

Arriving in Australia the week before the launch Al is faced with cultural differences and some resistance as he prepares for the massive event. His three Australian colleagues are a far cry from the crew back home in Houston. The Aussies struggle to accept the American's fastidious ways and tension develops.

In the meantime, the town prepares for the biggest event it has ever known, proud of its involvement in the world wide event.

Theatrical propaganda posters

The dish image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film Australia comedy space race moon landing Parkes dish

Persons of interest

  • Sam Neill .... Cliff Buxton
  • Kevin Harrington .... Ross "Mitch" Mitchell
  • Tom Long .... Glenn Latham
  • Patrick Warburton .... Al Burnett
  • Genevieve Mooy .... May McIntyre
  • Tayler Kane .... Rudi Kellerman
  • Bille Brown .... Prime Minister
  • Roy Billing .... Mayor Robert "Bob" McIntyre
  • Andrew S Gilbert .... Len Purvis
  • Lenka Kripac .... Marie McIntyre
  • Matthew Moore .... Keith Morrison
  • Eliza Szonert .... Janine Kellerman
  • John McMartin .... US Ambassador Howard
  • Carl Snell .... Billy McIntyre
  • Billy Mitchell .... Cameron
  • Rosalind Hammond .... Miss Nolan
  • Christopher-Robin Street .... Damien
  • Santo Cilauro .... Screenwriter
  • Tom Gleisner .... Screenwriter
  • Jane Kennedy .... Screenwriter
  • Rob Sitch .... Screenwriter
  • Rob Sitch .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

You bewdy!

The dish is a celebration of many, many things Australian and many more things from the late 60s. In those days Australia was still a southern outpost of the far flung British Empire, no matter the fact that it was now a Commonwealth. Radio and television announcers spoke with the plummest of English accents, hats and gloves were de riguer and the cultural cringe was the closest thing to culture anyone ever had. (Aborigines did not really exist, despite being "given" the right to vote in their own country just a handful of years before.)

Lamingtons and sausage rolls were haute cuisine while adding pineapple made any meal "Hawaiian."

*Shudders*

Into this milieu strides the USA on the greatest mission undertaken since Noah decided to finish that DIY dinghy project he'd been working on. Putting a (white) man on the moon. Wow. NASA is king of the world and little Australia gets to bask briefly in its regal presence.

On the other side of the coin, the do or die fighting spirit that underlies everything Australian is looking at this intrusion from the most uncouth of nations in the northern hemisphere with a curious eye and thinking, "Hey, I can do that." It's a part of the change from colony to republic that marks the country's rapid maturation. (republicanism will come to Australia within your lifetime, you just have to think long term.) Rugged independence squashes up next to the international community in a zesty oxymoron.

Meanwhile, small town Australia takes a venerable beating from those larrikins at Working Dog. All those pretensions that make you cringe to be a dinky di Aussie are whacked up on the screen in glorious 35 mm in an unflinching exposé of what it was to be an Australian in those heady, heady days. If three geeks in a radio telescope surrounded by sheep can't be heroes then no-one can. Sam, Kevin and Tom ride the script with their characters firmly in hand (h minutes, bit of a mixed metaphor there). They are subtly human and gloriously larrikin in that delightfully brash Australian way. The piss-take is honoured with due courtesy, as it should be, and the Americans are bashed, as they should be. The supporting characters and their actors are painfully honest in their small-townness: where others might see caricature, Australians will see aunties, cousins and uncles. This is the real Australia. Well, one of them, anyway.

One of the best things about the script of The dish is that it is unashamedly Australian: it revels in the metaphors and dialects that are making Australian English so rich, mate. The complaints from certain quarters of society which are aimed at removing ockerisms in favour of a blander, more English English are just the nagging of the wowsers. If they don't want to have any fun, there's plenty of desert for them to go and not have it in.

Is The dish funny? You betcha. Is it honest? Pretty much (never let the truth get in the way of a good story). Is it sentimental? Hmmm... well... a little bit, but how unsentimental can you be with a man who has just lost his wife? Should you see it? Damn right you should. Your life won't be pointless if you miss it but it'll be better if you catch it.

Security censorship classification

M (Low level coarse language)

Surveillance time

96 minutes (1:36 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

VHS retail: 10 October 2001

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