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Ronin Films

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About Ronin Films

Company history

Ronin is a film distribution company based in Canberra, the national capital of Australia.

Ronin's distribution activity began in 1974. Between 1974 and 1998, over 120 feature films were imported for distribution in Australia and New Zealand from such diverse countries as China, America, Great Britain, Japan, France, Russia, Thailand, Spain, Germany, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. In addition Ronin championed the work of independent Australian producers and directors, often maintaining relationships with filmmakers from their first short films through to their later, internationally successful features. Directors whose early work was distributed by Ronin include Jane Campion, Vincent Ward, David Caesar, Baz Luhrmann, Scott Hicks and Tracey Moffatt.

As well as providing support and succour for many young film-makers and distributing numerous Australian films, Ronin was active as an investor in selected feature film projects and as a guarantor of others. STRICTLY BALLROOM was the fifth feature for which Ronin provided a distribution guarantee for the territories of Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and it went on to be a huge international success. (The other features include WAITING starring Noni Hazelhurst; HOLIDAYS ON THE RIVER YARRA which was officially selected for the Cannes Festival in 1991; and AYA, an award-winning drama by Solrun Hoaas about a Japanese war bride in Australia).

Ronin also distributed SHINE, directed by Scott Hicks, and produced by Jane Scott, which Ronin picked up at script stage several years before its release in August 1996. Ronin also released the Australian comedy, ROAD TO NHILL, introducing a new feature film team of director Sue Brooks and writer Alison Tilson. ROAD TO NHILL was produced by Sue Maslin with whom Ronin has had a long association through many documentaries that Sue has produced and which were distributed by Ronin.

The company today

In 1998, Ronin scaled back its theatrical distribution activity to concentrate on what the film trade calls the "non-theatrical" market. The distribution of documentaries is an area in which Ronin has developed a strong following over the years and the company is without peer as a source of modern educational and non-fiction material for Australian community education. Since 1982 films have been promoted to schools, tertiary institutions, government departments, community, social and solidarity groups as well as to private individuals and collectors.

The documentaries in the Ronin collection are personally selected by the company's founder, Andrew Pike. The criteria for selection are intrinsic quality and educational interest. Ronin rarely has "output" deals with suppliers, and instead chooses most films individually according to their merit. The company is interested less in instructional films than in documentaries that explore issues of community interest in a creative and stimulating way. The collection as a whole represents a remarkable cross-section of Australian social and cultural life from the 1980s to the present day.

In addition to its Australian documentaries, Ronin offers a selection of feature films of educational interest, as well as high quality documentaries from other countries, especially from independent filmmakers in the USA and Japan.

In 2015, the Ronin team was engaged as Managers of the 19th Canberra International Film Festival.

Andrew Pike - Managing Director of Ronin Films

After completing an M.A. on the history of Australian cinema at the Australian National University, Canberra, Andrew worked as a cinema manager for a number of years while he researched and, with Ross Cooper, co-authored a major book documenting Australia's film history, Australian Film 1900 - 1977, published by Oxford University Press in 1980 (second edition, 1999). Andrew has also researched and written many articles on film, published in journals and newspapers; and has made several short films.

Andrew also served for three years as Consultant to the National Library's National Film Collection, on the acquisition of films for study purposes in schools and universities. He also worked for three years as a Research Fellow in the Department of Pacific History at the A.N.U. There he co-directed an award-winning documentary, ANGELS OF WAR, about the experiences of the people of Papua New Guinea in World War Two.

In 1974, he formed Ronin Films with his wife, Dr Merrilyn Fitzpatrick, a specialist in China studies. The company was involved in many innovative distribution and marketing activities for which Andrew won the Australian Film Institute's Byron Kennedy Award in 1986.

In addition to distributing films from many countries, Ronin developed a special interest in films from China and Japan, importing many key film from the Chinese "Fifth Generation" directors in the 1980s, and organizing visits to Australia by many Chinese directors including Chen Kaige, Wu Tianming, Zhang Zeming, Huang Jianxin and Tian Zhuangzhuang.

The company has also dedicated much of its work to the marketing and promotion of Australian productions. Among the many Australian feature films which the company has supported and distributed are STRICTLY BALLROOM, SHINE and ROAD TO NHILL, all of which achieved outstanding national box-office figures. Ronin's catalogue of independent Australian documentaries runs to several hundreds and includes several that Ronin has released theatrically such as CUNNAMULLA, FACING THE MUSIC, MY MOTHER INDIA, WEDDING IN RAMALLAH, the Turkish documentary feature, GALLIPOLI: THE FRONT-LINE EXPERIENCE, TEA WITH MADAME CLOS and PUTUPARRI AND THE RAINMAKERS.

As an exhibitor, Ronin ran the Academy Cinema in Paddington, Sydney, for several years during the 1990s, and operated the successful Electric Shadows Cinemas in Canberra from 1979 to 2006. Over these years, Electric Shadows was regarded by many as a cultural icon in Canberra.

As both distributor and exhibitor, Andrew has had a long involvement with French and European Cinema. He was actively involved in the beginnings of the French Film Festival in Sydney in the 1990s, and has frequently worked with the Alliance Francaise and the French Embassy to host Festivals and other French film events at his cinemas.

In 2003, the French government appointed him to the rank of Chevalier dans L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres for his work in the distribution and exhibition of French cinema in Australia.

He was a member of the Board of the Australian Film Commission for three years, 1989 - 1992. In 1992, he was given a special award by the Australian Film Critics' Circle for his contributions to the film industry.

In recent years, Andrew has become increasingly involved in production and completed a documentary, BETELNUT BISNIS (2004), for SBS Independent, with director Chris Owen. In 2007, he co-produced with his daughter Harriet, a feature-length documentary, ACROSS THE PLATEAU, directed by Zhang Zeming (filmed in China and post-produced in Canberra). He then directed THE CHIFLEYS OF BUSBY STREET (2008) which screened theatrically across Australia, and EMILY IN JAPAN (2009), broadcast on ABC and NITV. In 2014 he completed MESSAGE FROM MUNGO, co-directed with Ann McGrath, about the interaction of archaeologists with Indigenous communities at Lake Mungo in western NSW; the film won a United Nations Association Media Award in 2015 and was broadcast on NITV.

He has a keen interest in policy issues affecting the film industry as a whole and is a frequent contributor to debates of industry issues. In 2003, he was a Founding Member and Secretary of the A.C.T. Film and Television Council, Inc. and served on the Task Force managing ScreenACT, the ACT Government's film and television office.

In 1999, Andrew was involved in the formation of the Friends of the National Film and Sound Archive, Inc., an association dedicated to support the Archive's work and to promote the principles of best practice in the film archive profession. He served for several years as President of the Friends.

From 2000 to 2012, Andrew served on various iterations of the Board of the National Screen and Sound Archive, and subsequently remained active as an advocate of the Archive's work.

In 2007 he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his services to the film industry and the community, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Canberra.

In 2009 he served as a Jury member of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and in subsequent years served as Chair of the MPA APSA Film Fund, providing development grants to filmmakers across the Asia Pacific region. Among recipients of these grants has been A SEPARATION, an Oscar-winning drama from Iran, MEMORIES ON STONE, an award-winning film from Iraqi Kurdistan, NO BURQAS BEHIND BARS by Iranian filmmakers Nima Sarvestani and Maryam Ebrahimi, and THE CREMATOR by independent Chinese director, Peng Tao.