It’s raining awesomeness with Brollie, a free new streaming platform full of great titles

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Another new streaming platform has launched in Australia, but Brollie is different. First: it’s free. Annnnddd second: it’s loaded with kick arse titles that are hard to find elsewhere, writes Travis Johnson.

There are a lot of streaming services out there competing for your hard-earned dollars, but there’s a new one that only wants your eyeballs. From our friends at Umbrella Entertainment comes Brollie, which boasts “the largest library of independent Australian film in the world” according to Umbrella General Manager Ari Harrison.

Looking at their impressive opening slate of 300 titles, it seems like a fair claim. Umbrella have been in the distribution game, for both theatrical and home release, since 2001, and while they spread a wide net, independent Australian cinema is their wicket. Acclaimed horror smash Talk to Me is just their latest in a long series of local bangers, and you can find a good chunk of their back catalogue on Brollie.

Brollie is free but ad-supported, which seems to be the way of the future in the face of both rising living costs and rising subscription fees. But the point of difference is that aforementioned wide net, with Brollie also offering international gems like Jackie Chan’s Police Story and Police Story 2, Takashi Miike’s Audition, and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher.

Still, it’s the local stuff that really piques our interest. Umbrella have long championed the preservation and restoration of Australian cinema, both classic and cult, and that philosophy extends to their new streaming service. Deep cuts you likely haven’t seen elsewhere abound, so if you’re wondering what to point your eyes at on Brollie, start with some of these.

Not Quite Hollywood (2008)

Watch on Brollie

Nothing will get you more excited to trawl through the Australian genre trenches of the ‘70s and ‘80s than Mark Hartley’s expansive, exhaustive, occasionally self-indulgent survey of the Ozploitation boom. This was a time when generous investment incentives resulted in an explosion of horror, action, comedy, and lots of sex—often with a slumming Hollywood import picking up an easy paycheque. Not all them were good, but some were great. And you’ll hear Tarantino wax effusive about some of his faves as a bonus.

Road Games (1981)

Watch on Brollie

This great thriller is from Hitchcock devotee Richard Franklin—who got to direct Psycho 2 off the back of it. We get two US acting imports for the price of one, with Jamie Lee Curtis’ hitchhiking tourist grabbing a ride with Stacy Keach’s truckie…while a vicious serial killer is prowling the lonely Nullabor across which they travel. What could have been a rote exploitation thriller is elevated by Franklin’s careful direction and command of suspense. As an aside, Franklin is interviewed in Not Quite Hollywood but passed away shortly before its release, and the film is dedicated to him.

Breaker Morant (1980)

Watch on Brollie

Australia’s greatest war film (suck it, Gallipoli) sees three Australian officers (Edward Woodward, Brian Brown, and Lewis Fitz-Gerald) on trial for the murder of enemy prisoners during the Second Boer War. Yes, they did it, but things are more complicated than that. Saddled with an inexperienced bush lawyer (Jack Thompson), they’re being set up to take the fall for the sake of international relations. Directed by Bruce Beresford, this is clear-eyed, unsentimental, rousing, and haunting.

Ablaze (2021)

Watch on Brollie

Presented as part of Brollie’s excellent First Nations collection, this is a recent documentary that flew under a lot of people’s radar but deserves a look. Co-directed by Opera singer and academic Tiriki Onus and documentarian Alec Morgan, Ablaze is an investigation into the life of Bill Onus, Tiriki’s grandfather—a Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta man, an entrepreneur, a showman, a professional boomerang thrower and a fierce fighter for Indigenous rights, who was also very likely the first Indigenous Australian filmmaker. What unfolds is not just a work of (admittedly fascinating) biography, but a deep dive into the ongoing battle for Indigenous participation in Australian cultural life. It is, ultimately, a celebratory film, but it also doesn’t let White Australia off the hook.

Malcolm (1986)

Watch on Brollie

From filmmaking duo Nadia Tass (director) and David Parker (writer) comes this quirky Australian comedy, which hails from a time when quirky Australian comedies were actually good. Colin Frields is the titular character, a tram-obsessed ASD case who happens to be a mechanical genius who invents all kinds of nifty gadgets for his own amusement. When he falls into the orbit of ex-con Frank (John Hargreaves) and his girlfriend Judith (Lindy Davies), the pair soon see how Malcolm’s mechanical ingenuity could come in handy if you were to, say, rob a bank. Ostensibly a caper flick, Malcolm is fuelled by 100% unadulterated charm. Literally nobody dislikes this film.