Rats in the Ranks launches DocPlay and NFSA partnership

Important Australian documentaries like Rats in the Ranks and Facing the Music will launch the new partnership.
Rats in the Ranks: Larry Hand, former Lord Mayor of Sydney's Leichhardt Council with filmmakers Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson. Supplied.

DocPlay, the streaming home of documentaries in Australia and New Zealand, is increasing its collection with the addition of 13 titles from the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA). The films will premiere exclusively on DocPlay from 27 May.

The partnership between DocPlay and NFSA will be launched with the streaming premieres of two iconic Australian documentaries housed in the collection: Rats in the Ranks (1996) and Facing the Music (2001). Both films were directed by the great Australian documentarians, Bob Connolly and his late wife and co-producing partner Robin Anderson.

The other documentaries include: The Art of War, Buried Country, Unfolding Florence, Mabo: Life of an Island Man, and Mawson: Life and Death in Antartica.

Patrick McIntyre, CEO of the NFSA, said: ‘Our mission at the NFSA is to make sure the fascinating and informative stories held in the national audiovisual collection are as accessible as possible to all Australians, through our own online and in-person channels as well as through partnerships. This partnership with DocPlay will help us to reach new audiences and to promote the achievements of Australian documentary makers.’

Read: Nine documentaries to share $2.3million Screen Australia funding

Rats in the Ranks was a remarkable portrait of the lead-up to a local Leichardt council election and took a behind-locked-doors look at how politicians get the numbers. The synopsis: ‘Every September Sydney’s Leichhardt Council elects its mayor. Incumbent Larry Hand was popular with citizenry, but they don’t vote for the position of mayor – the 12 councillors do – and after three years of Larry some of them are after his job.’

The film premiered at Sydney Film Festival in 1996 where it made an impact, and it was revisited in a 2006 piece in The Sydney Morning Herald, with Connolly reflecting on its impact: ‘I think Rats is the best thing we did. We captured something in our culture that hasn’t been seen before, the genuine political process.’

Prior to its streaming premiere on DocPlay, Rats in the Ranks will have a one-off screening at the Arc Cinema at the NFSA in Canberra on May 23. Director Bob Connolly, will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.

Facing the Music was Connolly and Anderson’s fifth major film together, and saw them stepping inside the halls of Sydney University’s Music Department, where sublime music was being made in a setting that was wracked with conflict and departmental politics.

Rats in the Ranks and Facing the Music stream exclusively on DocPlay from 27 May. New subscribers can try two weeks of DocPlay for free.

Rochelle Siemienowicz is the ArtsHub Group's Education and Career Editor. She is a journalist for Screenhub and is a writer, film critic and cultural commentator with a PhD in Australian cinema. She was the co-host of Australia's longest-running film podcast 'Hell is for Hyphenates' and has written a memoir, Fallen, published by Affirm Press. Her second book, Double Happiness, a novel, will be published by Midnight Sun in 2024. Instagram: @Rochelle_Rochelle Twitter: @Milan2Pinsk