Set in an historically turbulent period for Australia (1949-56), Newsfront deals with the lives of movie newsreel cameramen and uses the events in which they are involved as a sort of microcosmic view of how, in a very short period of time, the country underwent remarkable socio-political change.
The approach is interesting and the film benefits greatly from two central strengths: history and Bill Hunter (as Len Maguire). In his feature film debut, director Phillip Noyce demonstrates his ability to deal with actors, narrative, and choreograph background activity.
By clever merging of b&w newsreel footage and scenario-inspired monochromatic sequences, he moves his film into and out of actuality and fiction in such a way as often to blur the edges so well that it frequently takes a conscious effort to detect the blend-point. This is especially true in one of his major set-pieces, re-creating the disastrous floods in the Maitland area in the early 1950s.
Plot [from an original screenplay by Bob Ellis, based on a concept by David Elphick] concerns the rivalry between two competing newsreel companies: Len works for the plodding, traditionally-valued, Aussie-owned Cinetone, and ambitious brother Frank (Gerard Kennedy) has left them to run the go-ahead, pushy, Yank-owned Newsco.
Acting performances are all fine, particularly Angela Punch as the embittered wife, John Dease as the voice-over man, and Chris Hayward as the brash Britisher who gets a job as a camera assistant.