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Video clip synopsis – Alister Grierson, director of the 2006 feature film "Kokoda" talks about historical accuracy and representing war experience on film.
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 4min 41sec
Tags - Australian History, filmmaking, historical representations, image and reality, Learning Journey History, representations of war, war, World War 2, see all tags


Kokoda - War on Film

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About the Video Clip


Talkback Classroom is a forum program run by the Education section of the National Museum of Australia. Each year panels of three secondary students, selected from schools Australia-wide, interview leading decision-makers on important current issues. The panels participate in a ‘learning journey’ (researching the issues and developing interview skills) to explore the issues and prepare for the forum.

This clip comes from a 2007 forum on the topic of “Australian history in the classroom”. Alistair Grierson, director of the film Kokoda was interviewed as part of the students’ Learning Journey in preparation for the Forum.

Background Information


In the early days of the British colony in Australia, education was managed by church groups and private individuals. Between 1872 and 1895 Education Acts were passed which made “free, compulsory and secular” primary education a state responsibility. Currently all school education is administered by state and territory governments. All government and independent schools follow the learning outcomes set by the states or territories.

Whether schools should conform to a national framework or curriculum is presently the subject of national debate. National consistency in curriculum, testing and reporting, alongside performance pay for teachers and transparency of reporting procedures have been key features of this discussion. In specific reference to Australian history, the emphasis placed on this subject in the school curriculum has been much debated. The importance of teaching a national story, a defined body of historical knowledge and a clear set of historical skills has been identified by commentators, historians, academics and teachers as a priority in the construction of a national history curriculum.

Classroom Activities


Before you watch

  1. The Kokoda Track in New Guinea was a crucial part of the fighting in the South-West Pacific Area in the Second World War. Try these methods of gaining some knowledge of the Kokoda Track before you watch the clip:
    1. Locate the Kokoda Track on a map. Try drawing a cross-section of the Track using information on the map. Estimate the difference in height between the lowest and highest points of the Track. Imagine having to climb and descend that distance carrying a weapon, rations and water while having to fight a better-equipped and trained enemy through jungle, mud, torrential rain every night and day. Discuss your imaginings with others in your class.
    2. Visit the Australian War Memorial website and use the online collection search engine to gather information on the Kokoda Track.
    3. Imagine that fighting were to take place on the Kokoda Track in 2008. How would the battle be different to the 1942 conflict? What advantages would modern weapons technology give to the soldiers on either side? Discuss these notions with your entire class.
    4. Discuss in small groups what may have happened if the Japanese advance along the Kokoda Track hadn’t been stopped. What may have been the result if the Japanese had reached their objective of Port Moresby?

While you watch

  1. Alister Grierson refers to the challenges that faced him while making the ‘Kokoda’ film. List these challenges on a large sheet of paper then try this activity after watching the clip:
    1. Put the sheet up where all of the class can see it. Examine each challenge in isolation; discuss it and come up with ways that would overcome that challenge.
    2. Write those suggestions down near the challenge in a ‘mind-map’ style. Examine all of the challenges in this way. c) Once the class has examined all challenges, divide the class into small groups. Each group will select one and its possible solutions and develop a presentation that shows in a visual and written way how the solutions would work.

After you watch

  1. Australia’s film industry has produced several feature films on the subject of war. These films have been set in locations such as the Middle East (Tobruk, Second World War and Palestine, First World War) and Vietnam. Imagine you are a film director and you want to create a film based on a contemporary conflict zone e.g. Iraq or Afghanistan. You are ‘pitching’ your idea to a major film studio and need to prepare for the ‘pitch’. Your preparation should include the following:
    1. An outline of the story, including major characters and the ‘hook’ in the story that will keep audiences interested. Remember that your story needs some sort of main theme e.g. a relationship, the futility of war, heroism, the ‘journey’ of a character and so on. The story may be presented in a ‘storyboard’ format commonly used in the film industry.
    2. The location of the story e.g. in Baghdad or provincial Afghanistan
    3. A title for the film – something that will inspire people to see it but not give too much of the story away.
      Some internet research may be required; the Internet Movie Database is a good resource, as is the National Film and Sound Archive. More information is also available at Making the Movie.
    4. Have three people in your class take on the role of film studio executives. Select a group of directors from the class and have each of them ‘pitch’ their film idea to the studio executives. Each director will get no more than 2 minutes to present to the executives. After all of the directors have presented, give the executives 5 minutes to discuss in private the presentations and select a successful ‘pitch’. While the executives are deciding, the class can discuss the ‘pitches’ and perhaps choose a candidate. Bring the executives back in and have them announce their decision. Have them provide reasons for their choice. If they choose someone different to the class choice, discuss the executives’ choice and find out what made that ‘pitch’ more successful.

Further Resources


National Museum of Australia’s Talkback Classroom website

Kokoda the Movie