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Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Year: 1994
Production Co: Australian Film Finance Corporation
Director: Stephan Elliott
Writer: Stephan Elliott
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Terence Stamp, Guy Pearce, Bill Hunter
When history looks back on Australian films, we'll remember that a surprise hit called Strictly Ballroom convinced distributors and cinemas that Australian movies could be contemporary and still very much our own.

As if trying to prove it wasn't a one-off fluke, two more films came out to pick up the thread and run with it, and thanks to them both we have a mature industry today, the new New Wave. Sure there's plenty of rubbish, but there are a few gems, and that goes for any film industry.

One of those films was Muriel's Wedding, and the other was the star-making Priscilla, which cemented a sometime jobbing Aussie stage thesp (Weaving) and a former Neighbours starlet (Pearce) as bona-fide world stars (another rarity in Australian films, but a new path they forged along with Toni Collette).

How anybody thought a story about three transvestite pub performers driving a bus to Alice Springs would fly with audiences proves William Goldman's immortal assertion that nobody knows anything.

It was still a big risk, but perhaps a combination of the novelty of the first Australian accents and scenery on the big screen since Crocodile Dundee and an appreciation for the new, urbane Australia many wanted to embrace (which drag queens embodied a lot more than Barry McKenzie) was the drawcard.

The story itself is almost a mere memory now, a device to get the three guys/girls in the path of some kooky characters and classic fish out of water set pieces. Three Sydney drag queens all have a reason to go to the outback city for a cabaret gig - Anthony/Mitzi (Weaving) has a former wife and son who want to meet him in Alice. Ralph/Bernadette) Stamp) has suffered the death of a lover and Adam/Felicia (Pearce) is just along for the ride and the party.

But it's the now-timeless desert rendition of I Will Survive you remember.

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