The Australian Dream

 

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A film about racism in Australia, but relevant on a wider basis too.

 
Australian Dream, The

  

The 26th of January is Australia Day, the occasion of national celebration that each year commemorates the landing of the British in 1788. But Daniel Gordon's feature documentary quickly points out that there are those who refer to it as Invasion Day due to the attitude then and since towards the country's indigenous people, the Aborigines. Indeed, although The Australian Dream plays at times like a biopic about its central figure, the noted star of Australian Rules Football Adam Goodes, the reason that he is featured here is due to the impact on his life of the fact that his mother was Aboriginal.

 

Gordon's film is not a finely honed work, but as a study of racism in Australia it has a powerful message to deliver and one that is particularly suited to today's world in which racial hostility appears to be on the increase. Although Gordon is the director, the role played by its writer, Stan Grant, is even more prominent since he is also a strong presence in the film adding, alongside others, his own comments on being Aboriginal and thus someone for whom racial abuse is nothing out of the ordinary. Football fans are not short-changed (life on the pitch features a good deal) but, while other sportsmen such as Nicky Winmar also make personal contributions, the prime focus is always on the continuing presence of racism and the need for Australia to address that.

 

Indeed, while this is in part the story of how Adam Goodes came to prominence in sport, many key moments in his life are related to his ethnicity. Both in childhood and as a young man he was subjected to abuse, but it was in 2013 that this took on a new significance. His sharp responses to a young female spectator calling him an ape created a media story and made him more than her a figure of controversy. Later still, he was upbraided for comments on racism thought by some to be unwarranted by a man who had by then became the first Aborigine to win the award of Australian Man of the Year. It adds to the film's impact that such criticisms against him are included as are statements by the public excusing remarks that most viewers of this movie will feel to be racist despite the denials made.

 

The Australian Dream includes footage from a TV programme entitled Who Do You Think I Am? which featured Goodes and his family history and this fits in so naturally that it underlines the fact that this work is itself a piece entirely suited to home viewing. Given its important and welcome message, the fact that it was planned as a cinema release does not count against it. What does, unfortunately, is that it would benefit from some drastic cutting. The ups and downs of Adam Goodes in recent times are a necessary part of his story, but that does result in the last quarter of an hour moving forward rather shapelessly in a series of fits and starts. Worse still the film becomes repetitive in what it has to say. It might be suggested that with a theme like this it can't be stated too often, but aesthetically that is not the case for the misjudgments towards the end lessen the impact of the piece. Yet that flaw doesn't prevent this film from delivering an important challenge to our consciences, not only those of Australians but of all of us.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Adam Goodes, Stan Grant, Nova Peris, Gilbert McAdam, Tracey Holmes, Linda Burney, Nicky Winmar, Nathan Buckley, Natalie Goodes, Andrew Bolt.

 

Dir Daniel Gordon, Pro Sarah Thomson, Nick Batzias, Virginia Whitwell and John Battsek, Screenplay Stan Grant, Ph Dylan River and Michael Timney, Ed Matt Wyllie, Music Cornel Wilczek, Pascal Babare and Thomas E. Rouch.

 

Screen Australia/Lorton Entertainment/Passion Pictures/Goodthing Productions-Dogwoof.
110 mins. UK/Australia. 2019. Rel: 12 June 2020.
Available on Curzon Home Cinema. Cert. 15.