Francis James - The Gadfly


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1994, 55 Minutes

Francis James - The Gadfly is a dramatised documentary about Francis James - one of Australia’s most intriguing post war figures. A journalist, theologian and prankster, Francis James was a man from another age. He wandered throughout the world dressed in a cape and black broad rimmed hat; wrote newspaper copy for the Sydney Morning Herald from the back of an old Rolls Royce; told wild and exaggerated stories; quoted Keats and Plato.

Francis James was imprisoned in China for over three years in 1969 accused of being a spy. His release was eventually secured with the help of his old school friend, former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. There is still some doubt as to why Francis James was incarcerated in China. It may be because he was a spy. Or perhaps he was merely trying to resurrect a shattered journalist reputation after published photographs he claimed were Chinese missile sites, proved to be fake.

This film explores the life and times of an extraordinary and enigmatic man. As he used to quote from Socrates, “The state is a sluggish steed, and I am the glorious Gadfly that stirs it on.” 

Bill Bennett Productions and Film Australia. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.


Writer/Director: Lewis Fitz-gerald

Principal Cast: John Derum, Kee Chan, Cathrine Hauser

Year: 1994

Running Time: 55 Minutes

Classification: G

Curriculum Links: English, Media Studies, SOSE/HSIE, Australian History and Politics.

SKU 199202800
Brand Film Australia

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