Alexander Street Secures Rights for Complete Films of Dennis O'Rourke

Friday, July 10, 2015

Alexander Street has recently acquired the educational rights to the complete films of Australian documentarian DennisO’Rourke. His films, which have become classics in anthropology classrooms, will be available both as a part of Ethnographic Video Online, Volume III: Indigenous Voices and for purchase individually.

Over his nearly 40-year career, O’Rourke used his films as a platform for local perspectives and indigenous voices. His lens captured such social, cultural, and political processes as the decolonization in Papua New Guinea, Aboriginal activism in Australian society, and the clash of mass-market capitalism with indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands.

His first film, Yumi Yet, set a new precedent for ethnographic filmmaking by piecing together its story from within the indigenous culture rather than from an outside observer’s perspective. Two of his later flagship titles, Half Life: Parable for a Nuclear Age and Cannibal Tours, have become standardized in the curricula of anthropology classrooms around the world.

In 2005, O’Rourke received the Don Dunstan Award for his contribution to the Australian film industry. He has also won the Director’s Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, The Jury Prize for Best Film at the Berlin Film Festival, and the Australian Film Institute Best Director Award, among others.

By signing O’Rourke’s documentaries, Alexander Street strengthens its collection of anthropological films that interrogate the tenets of traditional ethnographic research by presenting local perspectives. His films will be presented alongside supplemental resources that examine the filmmaking process.

“O’Rourke’s witty and disturbing documentaries question the status quo of marketing, tourism, and the value of exporting capitalism,” says Jeannette Hereniko, Film Curator and Editor at Alexander Street. “No one remains quite the same after being exposed to one of his films.”

Dennis O’Rourke passed away in 2013, in the midst of directing a new documentary on Australian identity entitled I Love a Sunburnt Country.

“To me, this partnership is personal because I knew and admired DennisO’Rourke,” says Hereniko. “He changed people's perceptions about the Pacific by capturing cultural imperialism on film. He will be greatly missed.”

These films are currently available for individual purchase and will be available in online streaming collections in August.

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