What an unexpected delight Soda Jerk’s Terror Nullius: A Political Revenge Fable in Three Acts is. It is an odd and irreverent insight into Australian film, TV, society and culture.
Infamously, the Ian Potter Cultural Trust withdrew it’s promotional support for this film a few days before its premiere, saying it did not wish to be associated with it. The filmmakers accused the foundation of “liking the idea of a politically engaged work more than the reality of one.” And politically engaged it is.
Soda Jerk are sisters Dan and Dominique Angeloro and Terror Nullius is a 60-minute montage of Australian film, television and music; “part political satire, eco-horror and road movie.” It’s a hard one to describe – they interweave scenes from Australian movies as if they are part of a single story. So Max Rockatansky, lying broken on the highway in Mad Max is bunny-hopped by Nicole Kidman on a BMX from BMX Bandits. Sonny from the TV-series Skippy looks over the edge of a rock outcrop to see Miranda, Irma, Marion and Edith in Picnic at Hanging Rock sprawled out on the rocks below. Individuals are inserted into scenes and many are so quick you miss them.
The political discomfort of the Ian Potter Foundation, I suspect, comes from a scene from Mad Max 2 with Tony Abbott and Pauline Hanson inserted as antagonists. It’s a minor part of the film but the statement is clear and is the point of the film, I think; this conglomeration of how we as a nation portray ourselves and our stories is a tissue-thin veneer that belies who we really are as a nation. We see it in the plethora of white faces, in the depiction of rebellion as Nicole Kidman on a BMX or Virginia Hey in a pastel headband, the contrast of a young Mel Gibson in black leather with the aged and bloated epitome of entitlement he is now.
It is all cleverly done. The juxtaposition of familiar mythologies reframes them in a simple and effective way. Although pointed, it rarely feels didactic and is often delightful. The humour inherent in showing the shallowness of contemporary and near-past pop culture allows us to distance ourselves from the horror of the subtext. It makes me both ashamed of my cultural consumption as well as keen to revisit so many of the film shown, to see them with a new eye.
If you get the chance to see this, don’t miss it. You’ll never look at Australian film and television in quite the same way again.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.