Australia’s visionary unionist films revived for Cinema Reborn festival

In the 50s, a small group of Australian filmmakers set out in a custom Kombi Van to document the working class.

In a customised Kombi Van with rear projection and a camera rig on top, The Waterside Workers Federation Film Unit documented the Australian working class in a way not seen before the 50s.

The Film Unit, created in 1953 by wharfies Keith Gow, Jock Levy and Norma Disher, made a series of films that campaigned for pensions, workers’ rights, housing shortages, workers’ health and safety, and the 1954 waterfront strike. The films were then screened directly from the Kombi Van into unions, community halls and clubs, private homes and even the streets.

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Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports