Get out of the house and enjoy films on the big screen again with us!

The Drill Hall Film Theatre Society screens classic films at an affordable price in comfortable tiered seating in our air-conditioned theatre. Grab a delicious snack and beverage from the bar, and be part of our lively film discussions after each show.

Become a Film Society member for $50 and gain entry to 11 films/year (or $40 if you’re already a Drill Theatre member). Casual guest rates cost $10/film.

Contact Sonia on 6684 2112 or email on for more information or to become a member.


Bran Nue Day (2009)

Director Rachel Perkins’s soulful and spritzy crowd-pleaser Bran Nue Dae, adapted from a stage production by Aboriginal playwright and composer Jimmy Chi, has a dancing foot in both camps. The characters play instruments and sing in groups but also burst into spontaneous song in the manner of a theatre show or a Hollywood musical.

Perkins draws together other playful technical properties: unconventional twists and twirls of the camera, bursts of light and quirky sound effects. There is a rich, zesty vitality coursing through Bran Nue Dae.

Ernie Dingo performs a surreal and magnificently staged rendition of a Dreamtime rumination “Listen to the News” while Missy Higgins, Dan Sultan and others fill out the show-stopping tune which brings them all together, and for which the production is best known, “There is Nothing I Would Rather Be Than to be an Aborigine”.

In Rachael’s earlier 1998 feature, Radiance, there is suggestion of a more contemplative, stately style, but here she enthusiastically takes to the moments of farce and productions numbers. Much like another Australian musical by a then young director, Gillian Armstrong’s Starstruck from 1982, Bran Nue Dae carries the day with energy and self-belief.

The film is noted by its primary-colours, production design and ebullient musical numbers, which hammer home the inevitable life lessons but also introduce much-needed bursts of levity, joy and satire. In one delicious scene, boys in war paint prance their way through a number on the back of a truck. It’s a cheeky poke in the ribs, that dance, not just for racists but also for liberals who insist on exoticising Aboriginal culture.


The Sapphires (2012)

Set in the heady days of 1968, four young, talented singers from a remote Aboriginal mission, are discovered by an unlikely talent scout. Plucked from obscurity and branded as Australia’s answer to The Supremes, The Sapphires grasp the chance of a lifetime when they’re offered their first real gig – entertaining the troops in Vietnam. For the girls, a whole new world of sex, war, politics and soul opens before them.

Based on a true story and adapted from the stage play, The Sapphires is an over-the-top journey that’ll have you laughing, crying and celebrating the achievement of these four amazing aboriginal women.

It was always going to be tricky to turn such an amazing stage show into a film. Although it is over-played in parts and there is a “stageiness” to it, the heart of the film is so warm and there is so much to like – from the music to the voices to the Australian story.

Actor, stage director and film director Wayne Blair cites The Colour Purple as inspiration for the stylised warmth emanating from the girls’ home, in a clear break from traditionally bleak depictions of mission life. The sun-drenched tranquillity of their family home underscores the girls’ core sense of belonging – and how… As depicted in The Sapphires, the Cummeragunja Mission could well be the happiest place on earth.

The upbeat cinematography is by Warwick Thornton who went on to direct Samson and Delilah and Sweet Country. It’s saturated brights all the way, and production designer Melinda Doring clearly had a ball with the colour-popping period retro. Full marks to the sound team, led by supervisor Andrew Plain and music producer Bry for maximising the impact of songs from the Motown, Stax and Atlantic Records catalogues.

The screenplay is by Tony Briggs, son of one of the original Sapphires, Beverly Briggs, in collaboration with Keith Thompson, and is an adaptation of his own stage play.


Wake In Fright (1971)

Kenneth Cook was posted as a young man by the ABC to Broken Hill in the early 1950s. This experience provided the basis for his scarifying first novel, Wake in Fright (1960). Gary, a young schoolteacher bonded to the NSW Education Department to teach in a desolate desert whistle-stop, visits “Bundayabba” (Broken Hill) on his way back to Sydney, surf and girlfriend for the vacation, loses all his money in a two-up game in a desperate attempt to pay off his bond and descends into drunkenness and depravity with the friendly locals.

This film, directed by the young Canadian director Ted Kotchoff, with a couple of foreign leads, Donald Pleasance and Gary Bond, was quite happy to accept Cook’s ugly Australians as his local characters and his parody of “mateship” as the social cement binding them together. The dialogue may be spare but we are right inside Gary’s head as he loses it. Gary Bond as the hapless schoolteacher is very convincing. Chips Rafferty as the local policeman with a pragmatic approach to enforcing the law exudes a low-level air of menace. Donald Pleasance as “Doc” the alcoholic ex-doctor who leads Gary astray is quite menacing, at the same time as being very amusing.

Wake in Fright is best seen as very vivid fiction, a horror movie in fact. Kenneth Cook may not have set out to write non-fiction. Neither was Ted Kotchoff trying to make a documentary. But, with good actors and a host of authentic extras, he created such a realistic atmosphere that many viewers were misled.

The film, which launched the career of Jack Thomson for one, is said to have given the Australian film industry a boost. Certainly, some fine films followed ; “Picnic at Hanging Rock”, “The Getting of Wisdom”, “The Devil’s Playground”, “The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith” for example.


Cabaret (1972

A 50th anniversary screening

With its masterful mix of music, movement, memorable performances, stunning visuals and, as its heroine might say, plenty of “divine decadence,”  Bob Fosse’s 1972 screen adaptation of Cabaret packed a creative wallop.

Christopher Isherwood’s autobiographical Berlin stories (previously filmed as I Am a Camera) were turned into a play and then a Broadway musical, and are here wrestled into movie shape by style-setting choreographer Bob Fosse, who contributes an incredible razzle-dazzle which landed the film 8 Oscars.

This year’s 50th-anniversary viewing proves (as if there were any doubt) that Fosse, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, created a landmark movie musical, one that harnessed the exuberant creative spirit of the early 70s to tell the story of a group of characters facing the impending darkness of Nazism in Weimar-era Berlin with great inventiveness, impact, and that trademark Fosse razzle-dazzle.

The film also cemented Liza Minnelli’s status as a film actress for her indelible portrayal of the ambitious singer Sally Bowles, living life as Germany swings darkly through the inflationary 1920s and brownshirts take over the streets,

In fact, the rewriting of the book and songs for the film version was so successful that in recent years the stage versions have been re-written to follow the film version rather than the original stage version, something unheard of in stage verses film musicals.

Sadly, today the chilling song, Tomorrow Belongs to Me can be heard being played and sung at Neo-Nazi rallies as an anthem rather than as an anti-Nazi song.

The Drill Hall Film Society was formed in 2018 and is a project of The Drill Hall Theatre Company.

The film society is registered with the Australian Film Societies Federation.