by Ross Sharp

Tim Anderson and Paul Wiegard,
Managing Directors,
Madman Entertainment,
PO Box 1480
Collingwood. VIC. 3066

February 22, 2010

Dear Tim and Paul,

Whilst I am most appreciative of the eclectic nature and quality of the films Madman choose to distribute within Australia, there is one aspect of many of them that (to borrow a phrase from Joseph Heller) is beginning to give me the willies.

And that is, the absence of English subtitles on English language films.

I’ve seen three of your titles recently that have no such option – Haneke’s remake of “Funny Games”, Tavernier’s “In the Electric Mist” and our very own “Wake in Fright”.

There are several million Australians who have a hearing impairment of some sort, ranging from mild (as in my own case) to severe, but this does not mean they have no interest in cinema or culture in general. In other words, it’s an impairment, not mental retardation, and people who are so afflicted don’t spend their waking hours shuffling about in ever-decreasing circles, dribbling down their shirtfronts and playing with their own poo for entertainment.

Yet even people with no such impairment will often resort to a subtitled option in order to understand an impenetrable accent, a mumbled line of dialogue or a conversation lost in a welter of background noise.

And whilst the amount of time and effort that went into the recent restoration and re-release of “Wake in Fright”, surely the best film ever made about Australia, is to be applauded, surely a little more thought could have gone toward providing subtitles so that a couple million more people could have access to it.

It’s bad enough that the deaf and hearing impaired have to scratch about in this day and age of technological wonders for that rarest of rarities, a subtitled cinema session, but there are many of us who would happily hand over our hard-earned cash to own a copy of some of these films on DVD, yet we’re not doing it if there are no subtitle options.

You see, essentially, it’s a lose-lose situation here, a “failure to communicate”, one might say. We lose the chance to see the film, you lose the opportunity to sell us a copy.

So, maybe you should give some consideration to making subtitles on English language films a standard feature on all future releases from now on, and have a re-think about including them on your back catalogue as well.

And that will ensure that otherwise even-tempered people like myself will not, when we pick up a copy of a movie in a rental outlet or store, be inclined to exclaim out loud, “Oh, for f**k’s sake, not again”, when we notice the absence of subtitles on something we’d really like to watch.

Just a thought.

Otherwise, keep up the good work.

Kind Regards,

Ross Sharp