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Summernats: car films at the National Film and Sound Archive

Summernats has become a January institution in Canberra. Before the fumes and the heat and the sweat begin, however, the National Film and Sound Archive is presenting three Australian car culture classics on January 3.

The archive's Cris Kennedy says with lots of people coming to town for Summernats, which starts the following day, "We chose three films that talk to Australians' love of and passion for their cars."

Jay Leno and Eric Bana in the documentary Love The Beast.  

In The FJ Holden (1977, M) director Michael Thornhill and writer Terry Larsen tell the story of Kevin (Paul Couzens) and his mate Bob (Carl Stever), two teenagers who drive around the streets of Bankstown in Kevin's yellow FJ Holden and spend their time drinking beer, listening to music and looking for girls. When Kevin gives Anne (Eve Dickinson) a ride home, it proves fateful for all three of them.

Future star Sigrid Thornton (The Man from Snowy River, SeaChange) has a small role as Wendy in this slice of Australian suburban life from the 1970s.

Claudia Karvan and Ben Mendelsohn in The Big Steal. 

The comedy The Big Steal (1990, PG) was "pretty obvious", Kennedy says. It was directed by Nadia Tass and co-written by her husband, David Parker, who won an Australian Film Institute Award (now named the AACTA Award) for the screenplay (with Max Dann). In this comedy, young Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), eager to win the affection of Joanna (Claudia Karvan), promises her a ride in his Jaguar XJ6. Only trouble is, he doesn't actually have the Jag - only a 1963 Nissan Cedric his parents have passed down for his 18th birthday. He trades it in for a 1973 Jaguar XJ6 at the lot of sleazy, silver-tongued used car salesman Gordon Farkas (Steve Bisley), who talks him into it. Not only are his parents upset that he's disposed of a longtime family possession, but he discovers the unscrupulous Farkas has replaced the car's engine with a dud. Joanna is distinctly unimpressed.

Danny and his friends hatch a scheme to get revenge on Farkas and win back Joanna's affections.

The film also won AFI Awards for Bisley as best supporting actor and for Phil Judd's score.

Finally, there's what Kennedy calls "An obvious choice", actor-director Eric Bana's documentary Love the Beast (2009, M).

"It's the beautiful love story of a man for an inanimate object" - specifically. Bana's 25-year love affair with the second-hand Ford GT Falcon Coupe his father Ivan gave him when the boy was 15 and which he has treasured and rebuilt more than once since. He documents its history and incarnations, films the experience of racing in the five-day Targa Tasmanian Rally, and talks to various people including Dr Phil ("about why men love their cars so much") as well as US talk-show host Jay Leno ("about his big car collection").

The FJ Holden is on at 1pm. The Big Steal is on at 3pm. Love the Beast is on at 5pm. Triple bill tickets are $20, individual session tickets are $10/$8. All screenings are at the National Film and Sound Archive on Wednesday, January 3, 2018. More information and tickets: