Filmmaker Jon Hewitt farewells his friend and mentor, the late, great David Hannay, who passed away on Monday night.
Jon Hewitt

2 Apr 2014 - 12:40 PM  UPDATED 2 Apr 2014 - 2:08 PM

David Hannay (1939 - 2014)

The two most important films of my life screened within a few weeks of each other at the Regent cinema in Albury in 1975 - Sandy Harbutt's Stone and Brian Trenchard-Smith's The Man from Hong Kong. As a teenager in country Victoria, movies had always felt so rarified and remote, but what struck me like a bolt from the blue was how real and recognisable these two great works seemed. Suddenly I realised that movies could come from a life that I knew…and that maybe I could make them one day.

The other thing that struck me was a key credit in both movies - produced by David Hannay. This one person was significantly involved in these two very different yet somehow similar movies. If you told that working-class kid from Wodonga that one day he could not only call this same person his mentor and supporter - but also a friend - he would have said you were dreaming.

David Hannay died at his home in Yetholme NSW at 8.05pm on Monday 31st March 2014. He was surrounded by his children, grandchildren and pets, and by his side was the love of his life, the great writer Mary Moody. He was just a few months short of his 75th birthday.

David Hannay is one of this country's most significant film and television producers. With over 60 key credits and a creative life that spanned six decades, he was a foundation stone of the oz cinema new wave, he nurtured and supported at least 3 generations of filmmakers, and he was active right up to his death.

Born into privilege in New Zealand in 1939, he ran away to sea at 16 and grew his trademark beard to hide his baby face and look tough. And tough he was, as many a Fascist strike-breaker on the Sydney docks of the 1950s could attest. He broke into the entertainment industry as an actor in radio plays and theatre, and was soon deeply involved in all aspects of the production process, working his way up from shitkicker to headkicker. 

Passionate, generous, political and larger than life in an industry that tended toward conformity, he was an intellectual, a raconteur, a leader and a worker who was just a comfortable in a Soweto slum as on a terrace in Cannes.

His achievements are many, from the groundbreaking Stoneto the anti-apartheid Mapantsula ("made in the belly of the beast while the beast was still breathing"). But perhaps his greatest achievement is his family, and the extended family of people around the world who will feel genuine loss at his passing.

 A great man is gone… but lives on.


(Above, from left:  Sandy Harbutt, Jon Hewitt and David Hannay, at the 1999 premiere of Redball. Image provided by Jon Hewitt)