Australia Day (2017)


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This heart wrenching look at the dark reality of racism that simmers below the glib, Australian-flag-face-painted surface of our country shows its devastating effects, particularly for women of colour. #MIFF2017
Set on one Brisbane Australia Day, we follow a disparate handful of people, each running for their lives. Fourteen-year-old Aboriginal girl April (Miah Madden) is fleeing the scene of a car accident. Young Chinese girl Lan Chang (Jenny Wu) is running barefoot from an unknown man. Iranian Sami (Elias Anton) is being chased by two white youths.

Broken farmer Terry Friedman (Bryan Brown) picks up Lan Chang in his car but is reluctant to help her, preoccupied with his own heartache and trusting, like many white people, in the ability of the authorities to take care of troublesome people. Police officer Sonya Mackenzie (Shari Sebbens) is devastated by her part in April’s trauma and is caught between the needs of her own mob and the responsibilities of her job. For Sami, the intervention of his family, particular brother Yaghoub (Phoenix Raei), does little to defuse the violent reality of a community that sees him as just another ‘muzzi’.

The pacing of the film is excellent and there was never a moment that I was able to look away from the escalating tension, the surges of emotion and the horrible reality of inequity and the abuse of authority and privilege. The characters are archetypes and simplistic, perhaps, in their choices but the fine acting and complex characterisation allows them to transcend simple stereotypes. The connection between the characters and the progression of the narrative feels real.

What affected me the most was the toxic combination of racism and misogyny. For each person struggling to survive, it is the women who are the most powerless. Even the most well meaning of the men, or the structures of authority mostly populated by men, held tight to their own privilege. There are some moment of redemption but I found the shining stars of the film were not the white saviours but April and Sonya and Lan Chang. The real courage is theirs.

Australia Day offers  no easy solutions but it does raise a question; what will you do to make a difference?

Have you seen this film? Let me know what you thought in the comments below.

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