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Australia 2012
Directed by
David Huggett
75 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Once Around The Sun

Australia’s first ever open-air rock music festival held at Ourimbah, north of Sydney over the Australia Day Weekend in January 1970, was much like Woodstock, just as Once Around the Sun is very much like Michael Wadleigh’s concert film of the same name. The resemblances are less to do with slavish imitation (Woodstock was held in August 1969 and the film released in March 1970) than with the unifying strength of the flower-power zeitgeist that briefly gripped Western youth for a brief while at the end of the 60s.

Originally filmed by Gordon Mutch, a Sydney sculptor and experimental filmmaker, the intention was to document the new Antipodean Age of Aquarius in a impressionistic manner but the project, which included an original score by John Sangster, collapsed because of lack of financial backing. It remained lost for forty years until staff at Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive discovered both the original film and Sangster’s score which have now been combined and re-edited into "a psychedelic joyride", to quote the promotional poster.

Although it is a pity that there are no interviews with any of the tripped-out festival attendees which would have lentit real vernacular flavour and instead we get a sanctimonious vocie-over from Adrian Rawlins, a kind of Down-Under Allen Ginsberg figure of the times, Once Around The Sun is nevertheless a valuable record of a time and place. Structured around the performances and mixing footage of the audience with psychedelic interludes combining intensely coloured patterns over Sangster’s score, it is a showcase of what was considered to be the bee’s knees at the time in art and fashion.

Compared to Woodstock the music is unsophisticated if not downright crude and dominated by the prog rock sensibility that reigned at the time. This is demonstrated by Billy Thorpe’s version of “Season Of  The Witch: but above all by arch-hippy band, Tully. Other big name performers of the time include Jeff St John and Copperwine, Wendy Saddington, Chain, Max Merritt, Australia’s own version of John Sebastian, Hans Poulsen, with New Zealand ex-patriate, Leo De Castro in the only straightforward rock number, a Jerry Lee Lewis cover.

If you are of the generation and want to travel back in time or you want to see what your parents, or even grandparents, were up to when they were your age it won’t come any better than Once Around The Sun.

DVD Extra: Theatrical Trailer




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