Steven Ball
Marie Craven
Solrun Hoaas
Daryl Dellora

Melbourne independent filmmakers

Leo Berkeley
Giorgio Mangiamele
Michael Buckley
Moira Joseph

John Hughes
b. Coburg, Melbourne, Australia.

BIOGRAPHY:   Having escaped from school in Year 9 with dubious woodworking and metalworking skills, John Hughes found himself – following some labouring at odd jobs for the railways and elsewhere – in staging at ABC TV in Ripponlea. This wasn't far from Cinecamera, where he worked for a few years, mainly shooting news, working with Paul Lyneham (a kindred spirit) and Goddard (not Jean-Luc, but Martyn). The innovation in the camera department at the time was colour, and the emerging technology next door to Cinecamera was ENG (electronic news gathering – better known today as video). At this time he made his first independent film on illicit drug use and the Bouyancy Foundation, Nowhere Game, with Martyn Goddard. It won an AFI Bronze Award at the AFIs in 1972. Then there was Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the Melbourne Filmakers Co-op, the ‘Learning Exchange’, and the alternative video movement. That's really where the work began.

John Hughes

CRITICAL OVERVIEW:   As a writer, director and producer mainly in creative documentary, John Hughes’ work is usually Australian in orientation, examining art, cultural politics and history. The work begins with engagement in the social world, and is driven by creative exploration. His film work since the late 1970s includes periods of teaching, commissioning (SBS Independent 1998-2001), Juries (IDFA 2001, Pacific Meridian, Russia, 2004) filmmaking, ‘video art’, installation and advocacy.

Film-Work Norma Disher, 1958

The nature of the work over time might be categorized according to abiding interests. As a writer-director engaging with aspects of Australian race relations, film, history and Indigenous rights works would include sponsored films like Guwana (23 mins, 1982) Galiamble (23 mins, 1982), Moments Like These (23 mins, 1989) and independent films like After Mabo (84 mins, 1997), River of Dreams (52 mins, 2000) and the ‘micro docs’ Howard’s History (5 mins, 2004) and Howard’s Blemish (5 mins, 2004).

Works engaging with the Australian labor movement would include a number of sponsored training and health and safety films for a variety of trade unions in the mid '80s, How does it strike you, Changing Schools, Acceptable Risk, and the independent films Film-Work (43 mins, 1981), Is It Working?: George Seelaf for the Record (50 mins, 1985) and the hybrid Traps (96 mins, 1986).

These films bring together Australian labor history, film and the ‘cultural front’, as do The Archive Project (98 mins, 2006) and Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens in Australia (90 mins, 2009). There is an online sponsored history of 60 years of government filmmaking (2004) that intersects in various ways with what amounts to a trilogy around Australian independent film and the early Cold War (Film-Work, The Archive Project, Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens in Australia)

The Archive Project at ACMI 2006

A very productive collaboration with Betty Churcher resulted over a ten-year period (1998-2008) in a series of popular television arts programs, and a wonderfully instructive work experience. This work began with a series of five minute ‘micro-docs’ written and presented by Betty Churcher (and produced by John Lewis), called Take Five (ABC TV Arts), that was followed in 2004 with four half hours The Art of War (Film Australia/SBS), and then series one (2005) and series two (2007) of ‘micro docs’, Hidden Treasures (Film Australia/ABC TV Arts).

Most recently in this strand is An Unstoppable Force: John Olsen with Betty Churcher, Film Australia/ABC TV Arts (2008).

There is a cinema feature What I Have Written (102 mins, Competition Berlin 1996); One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin, 54 mins, 1992; All That Is Solid, 54 mins (gallery, cinema, television), 1988, and works crossing over to gallery installations (November Eleven, 1979, Work in Progress, 1981, On Sacred Land, 1984, The Archive Project, ACMI version, 2006) There are Super-8 films, but not for a while.

Since 1995 the work has been made through John Hughes’ production company Early Works.

FILMOGRAPHY (Independent films only):

Menace at Melb Film Co-op 1977

Nowhere Game (1972, 26 mins, 16mm) (with Martin Goddard)

Kinetic Synergy: A film about John Hansen (1974, 26 mins, 16mm)

Menace (1976, 96 mins, 16mm)

Film-Work (1981, 43 mins, 16mm)

Is It Working? George Seelaf for the Record (1985, 50 mins, 16mm)

Traps (1986, 96 mins, 16mm)

All That Is Solid (1988, 54 mins, 16mm)

One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin (1992, 54 mins, 16mm)

What I Have Written (1995, 102 mins Super 16/35mm)

After Mabo (1997, 84 mins, video)

River of Dreams (2000, 52 mins, video)

The Art of War (2004, 4 x 26 mins, video)

Howard’s History (2004, 5 mins, video)

Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens in Australia

Howard’s Blemish (2004, 5 mins, video)

The Archive Project (2005, 98 mins, video)

An Unstoppable Force: John Olsen with Betty Churcher (2005, 26 mins, video)

Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens in Australia (2009, 90 mins, video)

Love & Fury (2013, 28 mins, video)

Trespass (2015, 12 mins, video, 9:16 vertical format)

Meeting Minds (2016, 100 mins, video)


NSW Premier’s History Awards (Audio-Visual) 2007

Stanley Hawes Award for outstanding contribution to Australian documentary 2006.

Joan Long Award for achievement in film history at the Film and History Conference November 2006 (inaugural award).

Film Critics Circle of Australia, Best Feature Documentary (The Archive Project) 2006

Nominations AFI Awards: Best Sound Design, Best Editing (The Archive Project) 2006

Winner: Best Tertiary Resource, ATOM Awards (The Archive Project) 2006

All That is Solid

AWARDS / Nominations (1973 – 2000)

1973 AFI (Bronze), Nowhere Game

1982 ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media) Film-Work

1982 Greater Union Awards (Finalist) Film-Work

1988 AFI Best Director (Finalist) All That Is Solid

1988 Greater Union Awards (Finalist) All That Is Solid

1989 ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media) Innovation Award, All That Is Solid

1989 ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media) ‘Curriculum Resource’ Award, Moments Like These

1989 Chicago Film Festival Commendation, All That Is Solid

1993 AFI Awards (Finalist) One Way Street

1993 ATOM ‘Innovation’ Award One Way Street

What I Have Written

1996 Invited into Competition: Berlin What I Have Written

1996 Invited into Competition Stockholm What I Have Written

1996 Winner "Best Film" Mystfest, Italy, What I Have Written

1998 AFI Award (Visual Design, with Uri Mizrahi) After Mabo

1998 Human Rights Commission Commendation, Television, After Mabo

2000 ATOM Best Indigenous Resource, River of Dreams

2000 UN Association ‘Best Television Award’ in Media/Environmental Reporting’ River of Dreams


(work reviewed)

Allison, Kris ’The Real Thing’ The Archive Project In-press # 99, February 2006

The Archive Project Bob Mathews 1946

Aufderheide, Pat, Centre for social media, November 30, 2009

Baranowska, Carmela ‘AIDC 2006: Active recall, archive power’ The Archive Project, On Screen, April/May 2006

Benjamin, M. 'Critical Literacy: The Key to the Treasure' In the Picture, Perth, July 1989

Benjamin, M. 'Re-Framing Benjamin: One Way Street' Arena Magazine (February-March 1993)

Byrnes, Paul, SMH, March 13, 1986 Traps

Craig, Natalie The Age January 18, 2007, The Archive Project

Davies, Paul, ‘Fanning the spark of hope’ The Archive Project Metro Magazine 152, 2006

de Silva, Sam, 'John Hughes: memories for the present' 2006 Contemporary Commonwealth catalogue, ACMI/ National Gallery of Victoria, pp 80-83

Dzenis, Anna: Review, One Way Street Cinema Papers: 95 (October 93). pp 33-35

Dzenis, Anna: Review, What I Have Written Metro Magazine: 107 (1996)

Dzenis, Anna: Review River of Dreams Metro Magazine 124/5 (Winter, 99)

One Way Street

Freebury, Jane ‘Doco recounts liberation days’ review Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens in Australia, Canberra Times, October 3, 2009

Freeman, J. 'Subversion: TV Gets Serious' Melbourne Times (2/12/92)

Gibson, R. 'Life as a project of montage' One Way Street Filmnews (November 1992) pp. 17-19.

Gough-Brady, Catherine, ‘Layers of history and filmmaking’ Onscreen, October/November 2009 Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens in Australia

Gough-Brady, Catherine, ‘Dadaist screen design’ review Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens in Australia Dox: 84, November December 2009

Hawker, Philippa ‘Keeping it real’ The Archive Project The Age, A3, February 11, 2006

Holmes, J. 'Istoria' (exhibition catalogue), Centre for the Arts, University of Tasmania, Hobart, 1986.

Hughes, Peter (no relation), 'A Way of Being Engaged with the World: The Films of John Hughes' Metro Magazine: 93 (September 1993) pp. 46-55

Luby, Barbra ‘How What I Have Written is written about’ One Way Street Magazine 107 (1996)

Lippard, L. 'Out of Control: Australian Art on the Left', in Village Voice, New York, October 1982.

Martin, A. 'Poetic Politics: A Response to John Hughes' One Way Street' Photofile 43 (November 1994)

McMurchy, M. Signs of Independence, AFC, Sydney 1988.

McQueen, H. 'Walter Benjamin: A life in Scraps, Quotes and Fragments' 24 Hours, (Dec. '93)

Moran, A. The Australian Screen, Penguin, Australia, 1989

After Mabo

Plant, Simon ‘Left springs out of a suitcase’ The Archive Project Herald Sun, February 10, 2006

Rowse, T. 'Traps: A sympathetic joke on its audience', Filmnews, Sydney, March 1986

Slavin, J. 'The Hole in the Doughnut', All That Is Solid 'The Age' Monthly Review May 1988

Spear, L. ‘Interface; Stars Disordered’, All That Is Solid Art Monthly, June 1988

Stratton, D. 'Traps' (film review) Variety, (U.S.), June 1985.

Stratton, D. The Avocado Plantation, McMillan, Melbourne, 1990

Strong, Geoffrey, ‘Politics: it’s all part of the plot’ Traps, Melbourne Herald March 14, 1986

Stern, Lesley "Severed Intensities: conjuring John Hughes’ What I Have Written, Cinema Papers (February 1996).

Thornley, J. 'All That Is Solid' (film review) Simply Living, November 1988

Tiley, D. 'Interview with John Hughes', FilmViews, 127 (Autumn '86).

Underhill, N. 'The Stars Disordered', 'All That Is Solid' (exhibition catalogue), University Art Museum, University of Queensland, Brisbane, 1988.

Webb, Cynthia, ‘Joris Ivens historic short film: Indonesia CallingThe Jakarta Post, August 28, 2009


November 11 exhibition,
George Paton Galley, 1981

Hughes, John 1973 "Community Use of Video." Learning Exchange March 1973, 14-15.

Hughes, John 1974 "What to Do with a Greek Bearing Gifts." LearningExchange December 1974, 4-7

Hughes, John. 1977 "Melbourne Film Maker's Co-op." The Great Divide (Eds.) Charles Merewether and Ann Stephen, 66-68.

Hughes, John 1978 "Jimmie Blacksmith; a Star Is Shorn." Nation Review 1-7, September 1978 21

Hughes, John 1978 "Albie's Blind Eye to the Why." Nation Review 3-9 November 22

Hughes, John. 1982 "Propaganda Then and Now." The Documentary Film in Australia. Ed. Ross Lansell and Peter Beilby. North Melbourne: Cinema Papers in association with Film Victoria.

Hughes, John 1983 "Unanimity and Disagreement." Filmnews January/February 7.

Hughes, John 1983 "Independent Film Action in Victoria." Filmnews July1983.1.

Hughes, John, and Tom Zubrycki. 1984 "Kemira: Diary of a Strike." Filmnews 10 October 1984.12-14.

Hughes, John, and Brett Levy, 1985, "The Waterside Workers' Federation Film Unit, 1953-58: An Interview with Norma Disher, Keith Gow and Jerome Levy." An Australian Film Reader. Ed. Albert Moran Tom O'Regan. Sydney: Currency Press, 1985. 365-73.

Hughes, John. 1987, "Screened from Access: The Public and Television." Arena: 80 (1987): 68 -74.

The Archive Project exhibition, ACMI 2006

Hughes, John 1988, "Obituary: Keith Gow " Cinema Papers, January 1988: 4.

Hughes, John 1993 "One Way Street" Artlink 13:1. May 1993. 73-75

Hughes, John. 1993 "A measure of resistance: ‘The Conciliation’ in Steve Thomas’ Black Man’s Houses" Agenda: 32 July 15-22

Hughes, John 1995 "Book Review: Modernism Relocated: Towards a Cultural Studies of Visual Modernity." Metro magazine.79-81.

Hughes John 2001"The pure and the profane at Auckland’s documentary sites. Metro magazine 126. Winter 2001 14-18

Hughes, John 2003 "Letter to Jane" (a response to Jane Roscoe’s keynote speech at AIDC 2003), March 2003, unpublished

Hughes, John, 2009 ‘Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens in Australia’ Senses of Cinema: June 2009

© John Hughes, May 2010

Early Works Website

Contact John Hughes

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Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis