Michael Rubbo was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1938. His father, Prof. Sydney Rubbo, was an eminent scientist and his mother. Ellen Rubbo, a talented painter. His grandfather, Antonio Dattilo Rubbo, (ADR) was a major force in the Australian art world in the early 20th century. ADR was one of the fathers of modernism in Australia
In this generation, his sister, Kiffy Rubbo, was an inspirational gallery curator in Melbourne before her untimely death. His surviving sister, Prof. Anna Rubbo, is an expert on low-cost housing around the world, and his brother, Mark Rubbo, (Order of Australia) has created the award-winning chain of Readings bookshops in Melbourne. Readings was voted best bookshop in the world in 2016.
Mike studied anthropology at Sydney University, which led to an interest in film. In 1962 he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship which led to him doing a Masters degree in Communications at Stanford University, California. His thesis film landed him a job at the National film board of Canada in Montreal in 1965.
He made over 30 international prize-winning , winning the coveted British Flaherty award, an Ertrog, and first prize at the American Film Festival (New York) four times. His film, Waiting for Fidel, is in New York’s Museum of Modern Art collection and is studied in film schools around the world.
Some of his films, including, Sad Song of Yellow Skin and Waiting for Fidel, are in the documentary section of this site. Mike has spent a lifetime making and promoting the documentary genre, being one of the first, to bring an understanding of cinema verite to Australia whilst teaching at AFTRS and weekend running workshops. He has taught all over the world, including at Harvard for three years.
Mike Rubbo is listed in the documentary textbooks as one of the seminal filmmakers of his era and has been honoured with retrospectives of his work in New York, San Francisco, and at the Sydney Film Festival.
In the late 1980s, he teamed up with Montréal producer, Rock Demers, to make feature films for young people. The three most notable are; Peanut Butter Solution, Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller and, Vincent and Me. These films won numerous prizes around the world, culminating with Vincent and Me winning an Emmy.
On the pictorial art side, prompted by his film on van Gogh, Vincent and Me, Mike started painting outdoors. He and his wife, Katerina, a Russian interpreter, bought a chalet north of Montréal where Mike became the village painter, recording local scenes and characters, very much influenced by van Gogh.
In 1996, he was invited back to his native Australia to be head of documentaries at ABC TV. He brought with him the successful reality show, Race around the World as well as promoting cinéma vérité documentaries.
After leaving the ABC, he made the controversial documentary, Much ado about Something which proposed that Christopher Marlowe was the hidden hand behind Shakespeare’s plays. With Katarina, he made, The little box that Sings, and more recently, All about Olive, the story of hundred and four-year-old Olive Riley going back to her native Broken Hill where she was born in 1899.
Mike his wife and daughter, Katya and Ellen, settled at Avoca Beach NSW, where he again became the village painter. Also, he’s been a local activist much concerned with a campaign to save the historic Avoca Beach cinema from over development.
In the mid-2000s, Mike, keen on cycling as transport, decided to make bicycle art and short films on the “stately way of riding that one sees all over Europe”. Katya and Ellen are also very creative people, Katya painting botanical art and works inspired by her precious Russian heritage. Ellen is an up-and-coming lyricist and song producer
Mike has published a memoir called; Travels with my Art. The book was launched in December 2017 and he’s been touring around Australia giving power-point talks at libraries, since then. Go to ‘Tour’ to see where he’s speaking next.