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The Dish

Year: 2000
Production Co: Working Dog
Director: Rob Sitch
Producer: Rob Sitch/Santo Cilauro/Tim Gleisner/Jane Kennedy
Writer: Rob Sitch/Santo Cilauro/Tim Gleisner/Jane Kennedy
Cast: Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long, Patrick Warburton, Roy Billing, Andrew S Gilbert, Lenka Kripac, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, Colette Mann

After The Castle, Working Dog films became the byword for feelgood films in Australia, and The Dish is similarly charming and funny.

An old man approaches the radio astronomy dish in the middle of a paddock in country New South Wales, there to remember the momentous event he took part in. He's Cliff Buxton (Neill), and together with scientist/operators Ross (Harrington) and Glenn (Long), he ran the radio telescope at Parkes. He had his team became part of history when the facility received the first signals from Neil Armstrong's team during the 1969 Apollo moon landing. Except for one slight problem – it dropped off their scopes and the team had to find the most important aircraft in history again before anyone found out.

There normally wouldn't be a lot to talk about, but the Working Dog team make it about the lovable, quirky smalltown Australian characters that populate the story, from the earnest town Mayor Roy Billing to the cynical, knowing Prime Minister.

A lot of the comedy comes from the clash of cultures between the American and Australian characters. It was an era when the world wasn't nearly so homogenised and people like a NASA scientist and the American Ambassador would've seemed like aliens to the housewives and working blokes of late 1960s rural Australia, but it's much more than a fish out of water comedy.

There also isn't a mean streak anywhere to be found and it doesn't need a stupid character for us to laugh at. Just like in The Castle, we love these people even if they're slightly embarrassing to today's urban sophisticate. Endearing and sweet.

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