If you have lived in Sydney for a while, you will enjoy On Location: Sydney at the Museum of Sydney. Go with a friend, like I did, and entertain each other with a competitive guessing game of where the films on screen were set and how much this city has changed. Jimmy Wang Yu in The Man From Hong Kong (1975) jumps over the fence from the Oxford Street law courts and then bolts across a road that is now an obstacle course of metal barriers and traffic islands. Check out a pre-gentrified Tamarama in The Empty Beach (1985) and a barely-visible-for-all-the-babes Bondi beach in They’re A Weird Mob (1967).
The exhibition does, as the curators claim, encourage viewers to see the city in a new light, especially in the 1920s photo of George Street, looking south, where it’s possible to see past the QVB all the way to Central and beyond. But it also underlines the fact that the means of documenting the city has been primarily in the hands of people who are wealthy. Yes, the locations for both the films and photographs include industrial wastelands and mean streets but they’re still made to look fabulously glamorous, and it’s only in the excerpt from Caddie (1976) and the very welcome photos by Claire Pelot Kitchener of Lyle Monro at a land rights rally (1981) that the city emerges as the more desperate and conflicted place where I have lived my whole life.