A journey into the life and work of the legendary and world-renowned Australian cinematographer, Don McAlpine.
A country kid from the small wheat-belt town of Quandialla in isolated south-western New South Wales, Australia, McAlpine was born in 1934 - the year before the first technicolour film was released. There wasn’t even a cinema in Quandialla. Don helped his mother support their family from the age of 14, when his father was stricken by tuberculosis. His part-time job at the Temora chemist as a darkroom photo developer struck a chord in young Don's soul. Soon, a school performance of The Mikado ignited in him the desire to entertain an audience.
His fascination with the magical images emerging from his darkroom set him on the winding path that would eventually lead to the glittering lights of Hollywood, where, in 2009, he received the American Society of Cinematographers’ “International Cinematographer of the Year” Award in front of the foremost luminaries of the American film industry.
That same year, Don shot his 50th film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a big-budget, effects-driven action movie directed by Oscar-winner Gavin Hood and starring Hugh Jackman. Show Me the Magic takes us on set and behind the scenes of that film. In 2011, Don posted another landmark: Mental, a low budget movie directed by PJ Hogan (Muriel’s Wedding, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Peter Pan). Mental was Don’s first digital film and his first Australian film in 25 years. As we travel with Don back into his past, and into the Australian outback landscape that he loves so much, we experience the extremes of movie making: embedded alongside him on the contrasting sets of Wolverine and Mental, we peel back the layers of what Don calls ‘the beautiful deception' of cinema to illuminate the world behind the screen.
Joined by celebrated Australian directors Bruce Beresford and Gillian Armstrong, we explore the heritage of the remarkable Australian films that Don photographed, including the iconic Breaker Morant and My Brilliant Career. In Los Angeles, Don reconnects with Paul Mazursky who gave him his big break in Hollywood with Tempest and followed up with Down and Out in Beverly Hills.
And two Australians of a later generation - Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin - take us behind the scenes on Don’s spectacular creative achievements – Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! At once the story of a remarkable man and an exploration of filmmaking at the highest level, Show Me The Magic will engage and entrance anyone who has ever been touched by the magic of movies.