Steven Ball
Marie Craven
Solrun Hoaas
Daryl Dellora

Melbourne independent filmmakers

Leo Berkeley
Giorgio Mangiamele
Michael Buckley
Moira Joseph

Luigi Acquisto
b. June 17, 1959, Turin, Italy.

BIOGRAPHY:   Luigi Acquisto graduated from the Swinburne Film & Television School in 1986. His graduate production, Spaventapasseri (1986), was the first of a wave of films in the late 1980s made by Italo-Australians that explored the experience of migration. Spaventapasseri was nominated for four AFI awards and was screened to great acclaim in Australia and overseas.

The following year Acquisto directed the feature Hungry Heart (1988) and also discovered a passion for directing documentary.


He has subsequently worked in both drama and documentary, including co-directing the ground breaking series A Change of Face (1988), Under the Skin (1993), the five-part documentary series Once Were Monks (2000) and the two-part epic East Timor – Birth of a Nation (2002). Episode One of the East Timor series, Rosa’s Story, was nominated for an unprecedented five AFI awards for a documentary.

Luigi and co-producer Stella Zammataro completed, in 2004, a one-hour documentary for SBS-TV called The Life and Times of Malcolm Fraser. Fraser, the Prime Minister of Australia from 1975 - 1983, was perceived as conservative and ruthless. Today, Fraser's past enemies embrace his 'radical' and principled stand on reconciliation and asylum seekers. This documentary explores the evolution of Fraser the man and unravels the truth behind the public myth. It aired on SBS on September 2 2004.

Acquisto then cmpleted Trafficked in 2004, a one hour documentary for SBS on the subject of sex trafficking from South East Asia into Australia. Trafficked tells the story of a former Australian Federal Police officer's ongoing investigation into the fate of two young Thai girls trafficked to Australia: Nikki, a thirteen year old Thai girl found in a Sydney brothel in 1995, and, Phuongtong Simpalee, a 27 year old Thai woman who died in custody at the Villawood Detention centre in 2000. It is the highest rating ‘Storyline Australia’ program for SBS TV.

Acquisto and co-director Andrew Sully also shot The Shearers, a four part series for the ABC based around a shearing school in the heart of Tasmania. Trafficked and The Shearers went to air in 2005.

Acquisto has been involved with many productions in recent years, including Trafficked - The Reckoning (2011), Beatriz' War (2013) and Children of the Sex Trade (2014).

CRITICAL OVERVIEW:   I am a filmmaker because I want to tell stories that, as John Berger has written, "redeem experience from oblivion". Spaventapasseri was one of the first of a new wave of Australian films to look at the experience of migration, displacement and the accompanying loss of identity. Once Were Monks is a rare look at the cloistered life of a community of monks in the heart of Melbourne, and East Timor – Birth of a Nation tells the harrowing, redemptive story of a nation and two of its citizens: Rosa, a young widow, and Lu Olo, a guerrilla fighter – a story hidden from the world for 24 long years of occupation.

East Timor - Rosa's Story

In these films I try to give a sense of character and story through the use of cinematic language. For example, in Spaventapasseri action often occurs outside the frame, creating a sense of dislocation akin to the experience of migration. The use of these formal cinematic elements is quite considered and often extensively researched prior to making a film. The intention is to tell stories that are informed in a sophisticated way by the mise-en-scene of the film. Together with strong literary and visual antecedents I also bring to my work a conviction that cinema should have a political basis. In recent times I have rediscovered my passion for cinema as a vehicle for social action.

The East Timor series demonstrates how film can effect real, tangible change. The making of the film not only made people aware that ‘la luta continua’, that the struggle continues, in East Timor, but also changed the life of Rosa Martins and her six children, the subjects of episode one. Through the making of the film a trust fund has been set up that provides a regular income for the family. This has allowed Rosa to set up a small business and treat herself and her children for TB. A number of future projects I am developing will continue to explore how this sort of productive partnership can be established between a film’s subject and the production.

Luigi Acquisto, April 2003

See also Some reviews of Luigi Acquisto's films

Children Of The Sex Trade TRAILER (2014)
Luigi Acquisto on The Drawing Room, ABC (2014)

Hungry Heart


Spaventapasseri (1986, 32 mins, 16mm, drama)

You Jump, You Fly (1988, 27 mins, video, documentary)

Hungry Heart (1988, 91 mins, 16mm, drama)

A Change of Face (1988, 3 x 27 mins, video, documentary, co-directors – Tracey Moffat, Monica Pellizzari, Sophia Turkiewicz), SBS series.
Episode 1 - Journey out of Darkness
Episode 2 - A Change of Face
Episode 3 - A Different Story
Note: all four directors of the series co-directed all episodes.

Postcards from Italy (1989, 56 mins, video, documentary)

Girls in School (1989, 28 mins, video, documentary)

A Sense of Place (1992, 15 mins, 16mm, documentary)

The Chase (1993, 26 mins, video, drama)
episode of Under the Skin, SBS series.

Once Were Monks

Terra Incognita (1997, 26 mins, video, documentary)

Once Were Monks (2000, 5 x 26 mins, video, documentary, co-director – Andrew Sully)
Part 1 - Moving House
Part 2 - Taking a Gamble
Part 3 - Keeping the Faith
Part 4 - Remembrance Day
Part 5 - Another World

East Timor – Birth of a Nation (2002, 2 x 55 mins, video, documentary)
Episode One - Rosa's Story (Director: Luigi Acquisto)
Episode Two - Lu Olo's Story (Directors: Luigi Acquisto & Andrew Sully)

The Life & Times of Malcolm Fraser (2004, 63 mins, documentary, FFC/SBS)

Trafficked (2004, 56 mins, documentary, Film Australia/SBS TV)

The Shearers (2005, 4 x 26 mins, documentary series, FFC/ABC TV, co-director – Andrew Sully)

Singles Club (2007, 5 x 26 mins, documentary series, SBS)

Survival School (2007, 55 mins, producer/director, documentary)

Rosa’s Journey (2008, 52 mins, producer/director, documentary)

Balibo – East Timor Production Coordinator (2008, feature)

Kriadu (2009, 26 mins, producer/director, documentary)

Trafficked – The Reckoning (2011, 54 mins, producer/director, documentary)

A Guerra da Beatriz (2013, 105 mins, Co-writer & co-director, drama)

Children of the Sex Trade (2014, 57 mins, director, documentary)



The Kodak Script Prize for a Swinburne Graduate film, 1986.
Best Film and Best Direction Awards at the Swinburne Film and Television School's Graduate Film Screening, 1986.
Best student film at the Melbourne Film Festival, 1987.
A Commendation at the Sydney Film Festival, 1987.
The Cinevex Laboratory Prize, 2nd Prize, at The St Kilda Film Festival, 1987.

Nominated for four Australian Film Institute Awards in 1987:
Best Short Fiction
Best Achievement in Direction
Best Achievement in Screenplay
Best Achievement in Cinematography

The South Australian Film Centre Award at the 1988 Adelaide Frames Festival.
1988 Atom Awards Finalist.

Hungry Heart
1988 A.C.S. Merit Award for Cinematography. Category - Telefeature & fictional drama shorts.

A Change of Face
1989 Atom Awards Finalist.
1989 Special Citation at the United Nations Peace Awards.

East Timor - Lu Olo's Story

Postcards from Italy
1990 Atom Awards Finalist.

Girls in School
1990 Atom Awards Finalist. Awarded a Certificate of High Recommendation.

The Chase
1994 Atom Award: Best Television Serial/Series - Under The Skin.

East Timor – Birth of a Nation Episode One - Rosa's Story
2002 Real - Life on Film Festival. SBS Award for the Promotion of Cultural Diversity through Film - Outstanding Achievement in Documentary.

2002 Nominated for five Australian Film Institute Awards:
Best Documentary
Best Achievement in Direction in a Documentary
Best Achievement in Cinematography in a Non-Feature Film
Best Achievement in Editing in a Non-Feature Film
Open Craft Award in a Non-Feature Film for Original Score

ACS Gold Medal for Cinematography in a Documentary (VIC & TAS).


Once Were Monks

1987 Edinburgh Film Festival.
1987 Tyneside Film Festival.
1988 Auckland Film Festival.
1988 Wellington Film Festival.
1989 Clermond Ferrand Festival of Short Film.
1989 London Film Festival.
2002 Squardi Australiani (Genoa).

1987 Spoleto Festival.
1987 Piccolo Spoleto Festival.
1987 St Kilda Film Festival.
1987 Festival of the Equinox.
1987 Melbourne Film Festival.
1988 Adelaide Frames Festival.

Also shown on SBS-TV in November 1988 as part of the "Australian Shorts" season of films.

Hungry Heart
1989 Edinburgh Film Festival.
1989 Montreal Film Festival.

East Timor - Lu Olo's Story

1988 Adelaide Frames Festival.
1988 Spoleto Festival.
1988 Festival of the Equinox.
1989 A.F.I. Carnivale Screening, Sydney.

A Change of Face
1989 Banff Television Festival.

East Timor – Birth of a Nation
2002 Inaugural East Timor Human Rights Documentary Film Festival (Episodes 1 & 2 screened)
2002 Hawaiian Film Festival (ep 1)
2003 DocAviv Film Festival (eps 1 & 2)
2003 Singapore International Film Festival (ep 1)

2002 Real - Life on Film Festival (ep 1)
2002 First Dorrigo Documentary Film Festival (ep 2)


"Short Circuit" by Vikki Riley, Cinema Papers, November 1986.

"Piccolo Spoleto - A Homegrown Product" by Gib Wettenhall, Directions, 1987.

"On the Spot" by Mark Harding, The Herald, September 1987.

"Italy in Australia" by John Flaus & Paul Harris, Buff’s Choice, The Age, September 25, 1987.

"Entertainment Films" by Susan Dermody, Essays, AFI Catalogue, 1988.

"Luigi Acquisto" by Jay Lane, Beat, 1988.

"Losing Love in Tangled Webs" by David Bruce, The Age, March 18, 1988.

"Low-Budget High-Quality Interlude" by Noel Purdon & Shane McNeil, The Adelaide Review, March 1988.

"The Darker Side of Love" by Kathy Bail, Cinema Papers, Issue 69, May 1988.

"Art That Starts at Home" by Philippa Hawker, The Age, September 2, 1988.

"On Monks, & Monkeying with Dickens" by Juliette Hughes, Eureka Street, March 2000.

"Once Were Monks" by Barbara Hooks, Green Guide, The Age, April 6, 2000.

"Once Were Monks" by Andrew Haughton, TV Eye, Eye Magazine, April 9, 2000.

"Changing the Habits" by Jackie Brygel, Herald Sun, April 12, 2000.

"Last Orders" by Kylie Miller, Green Guide, The Age, March 30, 2000.

"Monks in Transition" by James Murray, Screen Watch, The Australian, April 6 - 12, 2000.

"Heaven is Underground" by Bob Hart, Herald Sun, March 29, 2000.

"Moving Blessed Faith to the Pub" by Tony Johnston, Herald Sun, April 9, 2000.

"Diary of Disillusion for a Liberal Priest" by Wendy Tuohy, The Sunday Age, April 23, 2000.

"Birth Pangs" by Sian Powell, The Australian, The View, May 23 – 29, 2002.

"Timor: The Widow and the Warrior", The Green Guide, The Age, May 16, 2002.

"A Nation Unmerciful" by Corrie Perkin, Critical Mass, The Sunday Age, May 19, 2002.

"True Stories: Birth of a Nation - East Timor" by Bernard Zuel, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 20 – 26, 2002.

Some reviews of Luigi Acquisto's films

© Luigi Acquisto, December 2017.

Fair Trade Films

Contact Luigi Acquisto

Back to Melbourne independent filmmakers index page



Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis