Film Review: The Australian Dream

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I’ve always found it hard to love Australia. On one hand it’s a place that has offered me so much – a peaceful upbringing, an affordable education and accessible healthcare, not to mention amazing friends, spectacular beaches and excellent soy piccolos. But I’ve always had a strong revulsion towards the place at the same time, which, paired with an acute guilt for feeling ungrateful, has made for a complicated relationship.

Watching the documentary The Australian Dream on the plane back from visiting Australia was an incredibly emotional experience, and just crystallised so much of my internal conflict with the country. The Australian Dream tells the story of footballer Adam Goodes, a story I had mostly missed, no doubt along with most people outside of the country.

Adam Goodes is a former professional player of Australian rules football, a sport I won’t even try to describe not least because I am allergic to spectator sports. Goodes also happens to be an Aboriginal Australian. Goodes experienced racial vilification during his career in a very public and open manner, and this film explores his story and the conversations it led to in Australian mainstream culture.

The film is written by Stan Grant, who is is a well known Australian journalist and author who has spent years as an international correspondent. He is incredibly eloquent and I urge anyone who is interested to read his books. The film features insightful interviews with Grant, as well as other Australian personalities including sports journalist Tracy Holmes (also Grant’s wife), Olympic gold medalist Nova Peris, TV presenter Eddie McGuire and many more.

Some reviews have criticised the technical aspects of the documentary, but in my opinion it is successful in telling the story of Goodes and presenting a surprisingly varied range of voices on the topic. Though I winced through scenes featuring conservative commentator Andrew Bolt and TV personality and ‘larrikin’ Sam Newman, they represent a section (majority?!) of Australia that I remember all too well from living there.

Obviously I can only speak to my experience, but in my experience Australia is not a country that has a healthy relationship with its past. Though I grew up there, and attended high school and university in Melbourne and Sydney, I probably  know as much about the history of Indigenous Australians as someone who has never been there. No Aboriginal people attended my schools, and I never met an Aboriginal person until a few years ago in Mexico.

I always felt that this was wrong, messed up, but never really knew what to do about it. When I left Australia years ago in part I was leaving behind this dilemma, burying it out of sight, and looking elsewhere for belonging. It was too easy for me to write Australia off as an ignorant or racist place from a safe distance.

Although The Australian Dream is not a film about football, the fact that Adam Goodes is a footballer is significant. For mainstream Australia, sport is paramount, and what happened to Goodes forced many white Australians to face a reality that is generally avoided.

Throughout his ordeal Goodes remained extraordinarily dignified, and though his story is sad and unfair, his journey is incredibly inspiring. For me, it is the unfailing love of his country that is specifically inspiring. Here is a man who experienced rejection in such a uniquely public way, and instead of running away or denouncing his country he instead doubled down on his belief in improving it. I can learn from this.

My Australia was an extremely suburban and sheltered one, one where our Prime Minister refused to say sorry and a very narrow version of white Australia dominated mainstream media. In subsequent visits I have been exposed to a different side of Australia, things seem to be slowly improving and conversations about the country’s history seem to be happening more openly. Attending the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne this year, surrounded by a youthful and multicultural crowd and hearing Aboriginal people tell their stories, was a deeply moving and heartening experience.

Watching this film helped me realise how useless my guilt is, that acknowledgement and education is a healthier approach to reconciliation than burying my head in the sand and rejecting the country wholesale.

Inspired by The Australian Dream, I’ve enrolled in an Open University Indigenous Studies unit and I am determined to educate myself on the realities of Australia’s past and present. Bad and good. The documentary is after all remarkably optimistic. Although The Australian Dream was not a high performer in the Australian box office it has received critical acclaim, and there is a campaign to have it shown in schools. Which would be amazing. Meanwhile, however, I would urge everyone to watch the film as I think it gives good insight in what makes Australia tick, beyond the beaches and the barbies.

www.madmanfilms.com.au/the-australian-dream/

SNAPSHOTS OF BROOKLYN / sorta book review: MONTH 6

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Found on the subway this morning….

6 months! I’ve been here for 6 months! The seasons have changed, the end of the year is here, and every day this city feels more and more like home. Sort of. Well, not really, but certainly more familiar. I’ve had good weeks and bad weeks but one thing is certain – I am starting to get to know the city, just like I wanted to. The neighbourhoods are starting to take on personalities, I have favourite nooks and corners, and I’m slowly getting a little bit better at navigating the subway. Very slowly! I don’t know what it is about the NYC subway system in particular, but it flummoxes me more than any other subway system I’ve experienced on a nearly daily basis.

On good weeks I’m just so happy / still surprised to be here, in New York fucking City baby! Reading the New Yorker every week, eating bagels all the time, hanging out in Prospect Park, drinking on weeknights, adding to my never ending list of gigs I want to see and places I want to eat. Dollar slices! On other weeks I feel like I’m being ground down to a fine powder, that I’m working so much just to afford to live here that I can’t even enjoy the stupid place. On these days I’m fighting so hard just to keep afloat, to merely exist, that I’m constantly questioning my life choices. But guess what: I’ve had that same malady everywhere I’ve lived. I think I suffer from a case of terminal existentialism and as it turns out – everywhere I go, here I fucking am!

MOVIE REVIEW: 63 Up

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What a gorgeous thing Michael Apted has made.

Quick recap for those who have never heard of the ‘Up’ series (I’ve always called it ‘Seven Up’ but apparently I’ve been wrong). The Up series started as a one-off documentary, filmed in 1964, interviewing 14 British children from a range of backgrounds at the age of seven.

The central premise of the show is based on the quote, attributed to the Jesuits: “Give me a child until he is seven and I’ll will show you the man”. In other words – are we all essentially unchangeable, are our core selves formed by the time we are seven? How much does your background and what you are born into shape who you are as an adult?

MUSIC REVIEW: GIRL BAND AT ELSEWHERE, 09/10/19

As I watch four young well-dressed men make harrowing noises on a darkened stage with a velvet curtained background, Jameson in hand, I’m wondering what the fuck is wrong with me. This. This evil noise that Girl Band tap into, the metallic clash of the guitars, the headachy drums, the anguished screaming vocals. If I’m really honest with myself, being in a room where people are making this kind of sick music is my favourite thing about being alive. It’s fucked up that of all the things that you can experience in this world, this is the one for me.

Snapshots of Brooklyn: Month Three

 

 

Woaaah so this is a week or two late if the goal is to check in every month, and really reflects how loco things have gotten. Everyone knows how big and busy NYC is but guys, it’s really big and busy! Traveling about an hour to get anywhere every time I left my house seemed sort of cute at the very beginning and it’s really, really, not so much right now.

I envisioned days off (ha!) would involve trips to Queens to eat interesting food, taking the ferry, seeing art exhibitions, getting to know Manhattan, going to the movies during the day, wandering around aimlessly for hours and finding new favourite corners of the city. No, that has not happened. I have mainly glimpsed the city through the corner of my eye, through sweaty disheveled hair as I rush through the city trying to find the right subway entrance, often while lugging a heavy bag of mezcal. Because of the nature of my jobs I rarely have a full day off, and when I do have windows of time I am generally buying the groceries, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, trying to keep in touch with friends and family overseas, and keeping up with errands. I said this to a friend lately and he said, “but isn’t that just being an adult?”, and he does have a good point. How do people do this AND have a child or dog?? Or even just lots of plants? I have like four and they are always living on the edge of death.

BOOK REVIEW: Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by Viv Albertine (+ Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon)

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It’s funny, I happened to read Viv Albertine of The Slits’ book (released 2014) right after I read Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth’s book, Girl in a Band (released 2015). Purely coincidence, but actually they make great comparison pieces if not companion pieces. Both books are about clothes, music and boys.

Kim Gordon is now 65, Viv is 64. Kim was hugely important in the New York no wave scene in the 80s and 90s, Viv of the London punk scene that preceded it in the 70s. There is not a lot of overlap. While Viv was just a teenager when she started running around with the punks who would become the The Clash and Sex Pistols, and her band The Slits had split up by 1982; Sonic Youth formed in 1981 and had a long and influential career until 2011.

TOOL: A PRIMER

Welcome to the primer you never knew you needed for the band called Tool.

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Tool is the most famous band you’ve never heard of, or perhaps you’ve heard of but you can’t name a single song of. Tool are just days away from releasing their first album in 13 years. This primer is intended to be your cheat sheet, a beginner’s guide, a sketch of a roadmap so you won’t embarrass yourself around the proverbial water cooler.

Snapshots of Brooklyn: Month 2

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People like to say they do or don’t like cities, or that they’re city folk or non-city folk, which kind of suggests that cities are all the same. That they are passive. People also like to say, ‘a place is what you make of it’ which, while I get the sentiment, I don’t totally agree with.

Of course you can make the best or worst of a situation or a location depending on your attitude. But I also think a city is kind of like a person, with character traits and personality quirks that either gel with you or not. You can have a gut feeling about a city, good or bad, and you can fall in love with a city the way you do with a person. I can anyway. Sometime it’s quick, sometimes it’s gradual. Sometimes your relationship with a city can completely change. Just like with people.