The documentary films made by Catherine Hunter are characterised by a respect for and love of the process of making art and a belief that art and artists are not somehow apart from the world. On the contrary, artists are deeply and crucially engaged in shaping our sense of place, identity and of what it is to be human.

Catherine Hunter has worked in the arts as a writer, producer and director for over thirty years. After two decades of documenting the full range of the arts with the Nine network's acclaimed "Sunday" program, she left to work as a freelance documentary maker in collaboration with a small group of like-minded professionals. Her passions are for the arts and architecture. Her most recent film, Bronwyn Oliver- The Shadows Within, went to air on the ABC, October 2021. Film projects have included architect Glenn Murcutt and painters, Ben Quilty,John Russell, Sidney Nolan, Margaret Olley, Wendy Sharpe, Jenny Sages, Roger Law (the co-creator of the UK's Spitting Image), Anselm Kiefer, William Robinson, Jeffrey Smart and photographers Trent Parke and Jeff Carter. Almost all films have been broadcast nationally on ABC1.

ATOM study guides for selected films are available as teacher resources at www.theeducationshop.com.au

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In Production

Jeffrey Smart

Coming soon to the ABC

Jeffrey Smart, Self-portrait at Papini's, 1984-1985 © estate of Jeffrey Smart

“if a good painting comes off, it has a stillness, it has a perfection and that's as great as anything a musician or a poet can do”- Jeffrey Smart

There is no other Australian painter who quite matches the reach of Jeffrey Smart in forging images of urban structure and technology, not only related to the cities of our vast island continent, but also well beyond. Smart connected us to the world at large in a way that is unique. It is no wonder, therefore, that Smart is one of the most loved of modern Australian painters, and why his work in institutional collections and exhibitions - especially the recent retrospective at the National Gallery of Australia celebrating the centenary of his birth - has always been greeted with profound pleasure by visitors encouraged to recognise their environment in a totally different way. The genius of Smart, whose work never dated in spite of all the changes he witnessed over a lifetime, awaits completion of a major film that will take viewers into the inner sanctum of his studio. Smart%20in%20studio%20%C2%A9%20Stuart%20Purves%20copy Smart in Studio © Stuart Purves

'Jeffrey Smart changed the way we see our urban world.'- Barry Pearce, Emeritus Curator, AGNSW

Recent Release

Bronwyn Oliver - The Shadows Within

Aired on ABC TV Plus, Wednesday October 13 at 9pm ABC TV, Tuesday October 19, 2021.


“My sculpture is primarily concerned with structure, but I like to think of them as the bones for something. It might only be bone, but it might be the beginning or ending of something as well.”- Bronwyn Oliver

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) was one of the greatest sculptors in 20th century Australia. Her work can be seen in public and private collections throughout the country including all major public galleries, Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden, the University of New South Wales and in Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall to name just a few. She won the major prizes of her generation including the 1981 NSW Travelling Arts Scholarship (which took her to the Chelsea School of Art in London to study a Masters) and the prestigious 1994 Moët & Chandon Fellowship. In this beautifully crafted documentary, Hunter has unearthed a rich and valuable archive which allows Oliver’s own voice to drive the narrative. An introverted person by nature, Oliver was, however, incredibly articulate about her work.

"She influenced a whole new generation of artists, that is the potency of Bronwyn Oliver," says Nick Mitzevich, Director National Gallery of Australia.

from Catherine Hunter on Vimeo.


Broadcast Free to Air on ABC1, November 19, 2019


Trailer - Quilty - Painting the Shadows: from Catherine Hunter on Vimeo.

A fascinating exploration of the creative process, Quilty - Painting the Shadows, follows one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists as he completes one of his most challenging art works. The film documents the most recent shift in Quilty’s art which is a growing interest in our national history and the dark corners of our past. With the permission of the Gamilaraay Elders, he travels to Myall Creek in Northern NSW. On the afternoon of Sunday 10 June, 1838, 12 stockmen brutally slaughtered a group of 28 Aboriginal men, women and children who were camped peacefully at the station of Myall Creek.

This massacre had special significance because it marked the only time in the colonial period that white men were, arrested, charged and hung for the massacre. The film follows Quilty’s exploration of the subject over many months.“I am looking for symbols of the beauty of the place, the sadness of the place, the incredible violence of this place.” – Ben QuiltyAn artist with a profound commitment to social activism fuelled by a boundless curiosity about the human condition, Quilty won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2009 and his remarkable portrait of Margaret Olley won the 2011 Archibald Portrait Prize. In March 2019, a survey exhibition of Quilty’s work opened at the Art Gallery of South Australia (later touring to Brisbane and Sydney). Using the assembly and hanging of the exhibition as a fluid framework for her film, Hunter explores the journey of the artist from that of a young man obsessed with Holden Toranas to the one who brought, through his art, the full spectrum of the Afghanistan tragedy to public consciousness.

Quilty – Painting the Shadows follows the making of a major work about the Myall Creek massacre over a number of months from its beginnings as a series of drawings to the creation of one of his signature Rorschach paintings (where an original painted image is both damaged and duplicated by pressing one panel onto another while the paint is still wet).

I’m interested in the fact that it’s the landscape that he submits to the process of Rorschaching, if that’s a word. It’s actually the landscape that he paints and then destroys and in doing so, he moves landscapes as a genre into history painting. He invites us to think about how we are positioned within that story. Just as Hermann Rorschach would invite his interviewees to look at the ink blot test, Ben Quilty invites us into his paintings to find ourselves to intuit what’s going on, to make meaning with what’s happening in the painting. - Lisa Slade, Assistant Director, Art Gallery of South Australia. As Sally Scales, Chairperson, APY Executive Board Council says in the film, There's a way to learn history through art, there's a way to have conversations about devastation through art and that's what Ben does so beautifully. The documentary is directed by Catherine Hunter and produced by Shelley Maine and Catherine Hunter with cinematography by Bruce Inglis.The Soundtrack Quilty – Painting the Shadowsfeatures the music of composers Amanda Brown and Damien Lane with performances by Chris Abrahams, Hamish Stuart and Jonathan Zwartz. The soundtrack will be released through Lillipilli on all streaming platforms to coincide with the broadcast on ABC and Quilty exhibition at AGNSW in November. The Exhibition Quilty, a major survey exhibition, concludes its national tour at the Art Gallery of NSW from 9 November to 2 February. The filmmakers would like to acknowledge the people of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in remote South Australia and the Gamilaraay people of Northern NSW. We pay respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging leaders of the future.

QUILTY – PAINTING THE SHADOWS was produced in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and financed with the assistance of the National Gallery of Australia.



Aired on ABC1 on October 30, 9.30pm 2018

Trailer-Australia's Lost Impressionist: John Russell from Catherine Hunter on Vimeo.


Australia’s Lost Impressionist – John Russell tells the fascinating story behind the only Australian artist at the centre of the Impressionist movement in France and how his famous friendships forever changed the way the world sees colour. 

John Russell (1858-1930) painted in France alongside Claude Monet, he mentored Henri Matisse and was a close friend of Vincent van Gogh. Russell exhibited at the1905 Salon d’Automne in Paris and his work entered the Louvre collection in 1949. Russell’s portrait of Van Gogh was purchased by the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam in 1938 and is documented as Van Gogh’s favourite. 

In 2017, director Catherine Hunter and cameraman Bruce Inglis travelled to Belle-Ile, the charming windswept island off Brittany where Russell lived for 20 years. This island is virtually unchanged since the 1800s. The beguiling coastline of Belle-Ile was a continual source of inspiration for Russell and his contemporaries. 

This insightful documentary explores Russell’s intriguing life through the eyes of a new generation of Australian painters as they discover Russell for themselves. Highly respected contemporary artists Luke Sciberras and Euan Macleod travelled with Catherine Hunter to Belle-Ile and their impressions and inspired work feature in the film. 

Russell was handsome, wealthy, debonair and being Australian, quite exotic in 19th Century France. Yet despite his own artistic accomplishments and his pivotal role in the development of modern art, his name and his art have been largely unrecognised outside rarefied art circles. Australia’s Lost Impressionist – John Russell explores Russell’s enormous legacy on 20th century art through his paintings and his friendships. 

Actor Hugo Weaving features as the voice of John Russell who was a prolific letter writer especially to fellow artists Vincent van Gogh, Auguste Rodin and Tom Roberts. The intimate correspondence between Russell and his fellow artists is captivating and at times heart-breaking. 





Below / Review / 31st October, 2018 / Wentworth Courier, Sydney 



Glenn Murcutt - Spirit of Place Trailer from Catherine Hunter on Vimeo.


Photograph / Glenn Murcutt on mosque roof © Jesse Marlow, Fairfax Syndication

" A beguiling and beautifully balanced biographical film..." Graeme Blundell, The Australian

Premiering on the ABC, Glenn Murcutt – Spirit of Place explores the life and work of Australia’s most famous living architect. Murcutt’s extraordinary international reputation rests on the beauty and integrity of his buildings. With a swag of international awards (including the prestigious Pritzker Prize) Murcutt has literally put Australian architecture on the world map. Murcutt’s focus has been the creation of energy-efficient masterpieces perfectly suited to their environment and his breakthrough designs have influenced architects around the world.

Yet he’s an enigma.

By choice, he has never built outside his own country. Murcutt believes one must understand a place intimately before good design is possible. He has no staff, no computer and no email. He insists good design comes from the hand, not the computer.

In the words of the Pritzker jury: “In an age obsessed with celebrity, the glitz of our ‘starchitects’, backed by large staffs and copious public relations support, dominates the headlines. As a total contrast, Murcutt works in a one-person office on the other side of the world ... yet has a waiting list of clients, so intent is he to give each project his personal best. He is an innovative architectural technician who is capable of turning his sensitivity to the environment and to locality into forthright, totally honest, non-showy works of art.”

Murcutt has long eschewed publicity and has preferred to let his work speak for itself. But over the past few years he has allowed documentary filmmaker Catherine Hunter to follow him as he embarked on his most challenging project to date – a mosque for the Newport Islamic community in Melbourne.


Marie Short House / Kempsey © Bruce Inglis

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