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Robin Anderson

Documentary filmmaker

Robin Anderson who in partnership with husband Bob Connolly produced some of the finest documentaries made in Australia in recent years, died in Sydney on March 8 after battling cancer the previous nine months. She was 51.

The filmmaking team (Connolly on camera, Anderson on sound) came to prominence with a remarkable trilogy of films they made during the 1980s in the highlands of Papua New Guinea: “First Contact” (1982), “Joe Leahy’s Neighbors” (1987) and “Black Harvest” (1990).

The films, about tribal conflicts and societal changes, were all theatrically released in Australia, all three won the Grand Prix at the Festival Cinema du Reel in Paris, and all three won the best documentary award for their year at the Australian Film Institute Awards.

Returning to work in Australia, Anderson and Connolly produced two more highly regarded and multi-awarded documentaries, “Rats in the Ranks” (1994), which covered a hotly contested election for mayor in a suburb of Sydney and which was notable for the exceptionally unguarded and candid comments from the rival candidates which found their way into the film, and “Facing the Music” (2001), an uncompromising portrayal of the head of Sydney U.’s music faculty and her radicalization in the face of continuing government cuts to university funding.

These films, too, won the AFI best documentary award, and the team was also awarded the AFI’s Byron Kennedy Award for their outstanding contribution to Australian filmmaking.

Perth-born Anderson obtained an honors degree in economics at the U. of Western Australia, a government scholarship to Columbia U. in New York in 1975 and there gained a master’s degree in sociology.

Back in Australia, she joined ABC Television, where she met her future husband, who was an established cameraman. They soon formed their own production company to make independent films.

Anderson is survived by Connolly and their two daughters.

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