Born in 1951 in Heemskerk, Holland, Rolf de Heer migrated to Australia with his family in 1959. From eighteen, he spent seven years working at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, until he decided it was time "to stop dealing with other people's programs and make some of my own".
In 1977, he was granted entry into Australia's prestigious Film Television and Radio School, completing the three-year course with Diplomas in Production and Directing.
Having written, produced and directed feature films for nearly two decades, de Heer has become one of Australia's leading filmmakers. His films consistently challenge moral conventions and push the boundaries of the filmmaker's art. De Heer's first film was the children's feature TAIL OF A TIGER (1984), which attracted both critical and commercial success and played at the Berlin Kinderfest.
INCIDENT AT RAVEN'S GATE (1987), de Heer's second feature, was an atmospheric science fiction mystery thriller, followed by DINGO (1990) a musical odyssey that travelled from outback Western Australia to the streets of Paris starring Colin Friels and jazz legend Miles Davis in his only film role.
BAD BOY BUBBY (1993) marked de Heer's first collaboration with Italian producer Domenico Procacci. Thirty-two different cinematographers were used to chronicle the adventures of a child-man seeing the world for the first time. BAD BOY BUBBY won immediate international acclaim and went on to win the Grand Special Jury Prize and the International Film Critics Prize at the 1993 Venice Film Festival, as well as four Australian Film Institute Awards.
De Heer spent the next two years working on EPSILON (1995) that made extensive use of motion control cinematography. During a break in filming, THE QUIET ROOM was shot. The story of a family breakdown as seen through the eyes of a child, THE QUIET ROOM garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards from around the world and was selected for Official Competition in the 1996 Cannes International Film Festival.
In 1997 de Heer directed DANCE ME TO MY SONG, also chosen for Official Competition at the Cannes Film Festival. In the same year, he produced Richard Flanagan's THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING, which was selected for the Official Competition at the 1998 Berlin Film Festival.
In 1999, de Heer spent three months in the jungles of French Guyana shooting the film THE OLD MAN WHO READ LOVE STORIES starring Richard Dreyfuss and Hugo Weaving. The film won the Audience Award for Most Popular Film at the Adelaide International Film Festival 2003, the President's Award for Artistic Vision and Execution at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival in 2001, and the Special Jury Prize for Best Feature Film at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. It was also selected to screen at the Melbourne and Brisbane International Film Festivals in 2001.
De Heer's next film, THE TRACKER, was shot entirely on location in the rugged Gammon Ranges in outback Australia and debuted to a standing ovation at the 2002 Adelaide Festival of Arts and in Official Competition at the 2002 Venice International Film Festival. The film won prizes all over the world, winning the Special Jury Prize at the 2002 Valladolid International Film Festival, and Best Screenplay at the Festival of Ghent. In Australia it won numerous prizes, including Best Film at both the 2002 Circle of Film Critics Awards and the 2002 IF (people's) Awards.
ALEXANDRA'S PROJECT, de Heer's tenth film as director, and the first feature to be produced by Fandango Australia. It was selected to participate in official competition at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival in 2003 and went on to screen at numerous international festivals including Puchon, Edinburgh, Telluride, Toronto and Montreal, where it won the Golden Zenith for Best Film in the Oceania section.
In 2003, de Heer began working on TEN CANOES with the community of Ramingining, Arnhem Land. The film went on to win many awards notably the Special Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard at the 2006 Cannes International Film Festival. In Australia it scooped the AFI Awards with six wins: Best Film, Best Direction (with Peter Djigirr), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound and Best Editing. De Heer and co-director Peter Djigirr also won Best Direction at the IF Awards.
De Heer also won the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for the screenplay, and the film was awarded the winner of the Audio/Visual History Prize at the NSW Premier’s History Awards.
In 2006, de Heer also co-directed the documentary, THE BALANDA AND THE BARK CANOES (aka MAKING TEN CANOES) which won the Urban Cinefile Audience Award for Documentaries at the Sydney Film Festival.
De Heer recently finished his twelfth feature film DR PLONK, a black and white silent comedy in the style of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. The film closed the Adelaide Film Festival in 2007 and was selected into the Visions Section of the Toronto International Film Festival.