Full list of articles and presentations
Framing the Political through the personal: A chat with Tom Zubrycki
A nation slips under the waves: Tom Zubrycki’s The Hungry Tide.
The Documentary as Privileged Access
The Stanley Hawes Award Address
Lebanese Muslims Speak Back: Two films by Tom Zubrycki
Cross-cultural Romance and the Refugee Film
Stealing Moments: Tom Zubrycki’s Molly and Mobarak
Exploring Power and Trust in Documentary: Tom Zubrycki’s Molly and Mobarak
On filmmaking, history and other obsessions – Metro magazine 2005
Tom Zubrycki is one of Australia’s finest documentary filmmakers. With his lucky thirteenth film, Vietnam Symphony (2005) soon be released, he reflects on his twenty-five years in the game.’A passion for social justice has always been my main motivation,’ says Tom Zubrycki. Over his four-decade career, Zubrycki has tackled contentious social and political issues in more than a dozen documentaries. ‘But I’m also inspired to tell stories about ordinary Australians – stories that have been traditionally ignored by the mainstream media, and that need to be told…
Article by Tom Zubrycki – Realtime magazine 2004
There’s always been a tradition of new documentaries being screened at Parliament House, Canberra. So it came as a surprise that Joint House leader Mr Wedgwood acting on the advice of the Speaker Neil Andrew rejected my film Molly & Mobarak. Wedgwood’s letter (leaked to the Canberra Times) stated several reasons, including that “this film promotes the theme of widespread opposition to government policy and might cause offence to a significant part of the Australian community.” The ban was outrageous and it was subsequently overturned in 48 hours…
Talk by Tom Zubrycki – State Library of NSW 2003
Given to the Independent Scholars Association of Australia NSW Chapter, as part of a series of “Conversations with Cultural Pacemakers” at the State Library of NSW.
Documentaries are the moral conscience of the nation. I’d like to argue that in this time of fast news and info-tainment there is a greater need for documentaries than ever before to offer us sharp insights into who we are as Australians…
Ahead of history – the documentary filmmaker in the age of extreme – Wollongong 2000
Address by Tom Zubrycki for the 2000 NSW Premier’s History Awards Address. Delivered at the Wollongong Art Gallery on November 17, 2000
In his book Age of Extremes Eric Hobsbawm refers to the difficulty of writing history on the twentieth century because it is not ‘a period known only from outside’. ‘If the historian can make sense of this century’, he says, ‘it is in large part because of watching and listening.’ Reading Hobsbawm’s words made me think that the work of a documentary filmmaker and that of a contemporary historian are related in important ways. ‘Watching and listening’ is at the very heart of documentary filmmaking, but so is the process of discovery, of finding drama in everyday life and then telling a story with a point of view…
Profession, privilege and passion – ASDA Conference 2002
Presentation by Tom Zubrycki at the ASDA Conference 2002: “Persistence of Vision”
Krystof Kieslowski was spot on when he de-mythologises the glamour of directing” it’s a nerve-wrecking business and, at a certain point, everything else has to come second, including your family, emotions, private life…”. Certainly for me filmmaking is being riddled with self-doubt. Its tossing and turning about the scene you’re going to shoot that day tortured by the possibility that suddenly the people you’ve been filming with might suddenly decide to back out, then when you come back to the office you’re facing mountains of paper work, the PIA, legal agreements, completion guarantors. You’ve already started shooting 4 months ago with a camera you’ve purchased on your credit card with no firm letter of a pre-sale. Meanwhile the editor has already stated and you’re paying him out of your own pocket!…
Article by Tom Zubrycki – IF magazine 2001
The British writer and academic Stella Bruzzi says that “documentaries are a negotiation between filmmaker and reality and, at heart, a performance”. The notion of performance is not something I would have associated with documentary before The Secret Safari, but thinking about it, it makes perfect sense. Documentary, for me, has always involved something of a tension between spontaneity and a high level of construction. There is something artificial about the idea of performance, and what is more artificial than (1) a re-construction, and (2) an interview situation? Both happen to lie at the core of the structure of my latest film….
Letter written to friends from New York – 2 days after 9/11
Its hard to describe the last few days except that they’ve been traumatic and difficult – yet also strangely life-affirming. Last Tuesday I was having breakfast with my Australian friend Irene who has an apartment on the lower east side – about 2 kilometres from the World Trade Center when we heard two distinct ‘thuds’ – some 18 minutes apart. We assumed it was something to do with water, or gas pressure blowing off a manhole cover which often happens in this area. Suddenly we heard people running up the stairs – we opened our doors and joined others scrambling to get to the roof. We were agog. Both WTC towers – monuments to American capitalism – were on fire. A surreal sight – incomprehensible…
When passion isn’t enough – Sydney Morning Herald 2000
Figures published by Australian Film Commission in September state that 86% of film makers who get to direct their first feature film cannot expect to make another. Anecdotal evidence suggests the same applies to documentary. In fact most experienced directors I know survive on an extremely precarious financial basis (less than $30,000 per year). But why should that be? Surely documentaries as a form of cultural production must occupy a central place in any sophisticated ‘caring’ democracy. Yet the opposite seems to be true…
Documentary – a personal view – Second Take – Australian Filmmakers Talk 1999
What I love about documentary is that it conveys the textures of everyday life like no other form can. It captures spontaneity and immediacy. It involves a process of discovery with often very unexpected twists and turns. There is never the opportunity to do a second take. I find this thrilling on the one hand, but exhausting on the other. Unlike scripted drama, you can’t plan a documentary. The best ones unfold of their own accord. Its in watching the unexpected coalesce or unravel which is the thrilling part of the process. From my experience it all depends on good planning, some intuition and a bit of luck.
From video to film and back again – Metro Magazine 1997
As a documentary filmmaker, I have ambivalent feelings about Reality Television not only because its a very cheap way of making quasi-docs, but that it will drag down the reputation and integrity of the form. Rather than ’empowering’ the subjects, these programmes (I hesitate to call them ‘films’) have, I suggest, had the reverse effect. The subjects sense of powerlessness has been heightened. I actually believe that most people in the documentary industry treat the relationship with the subject with far greater sensitivity. A set of ethical standards has evolved over the years based on a strongly collaborative model and a notion of informed consent.
Zubrycki zooms in on Social inequalities and worthy cause – Times on Sunday 1987