Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

P.N.G. Style – ***

Posted: December 9, 2014 in 2010, Adventure, Australia, Documentary, XXX

Australian adventurer David Fedele went on a three-month journey to the (most likely) least explored country in the world: Papua New Guinea. His footage was edited in a nice travelog to give the viewer an escapism experience that doesn’t show the bad, violent reputation of the country, nor the polished tourist brochure version, but the reality.

It’s an incredibly well-balanced and positive tale of a guy who just observes, interacts with respect and shares his experiences without being cocky at all. Sure, it’s filmed with a small camera and it’s not a real documentary, but it was selected to be shown in several festivals around the world, so it’s worthy of an entry on here.

You can watch it here: P.N.G. Style from David Fedele on Vimeo.


Tracks – *(*)

Posted: December 3, 2014 in 2013, Adventure, Australia, Drama, X1/2

A woman decides to walk across the Australian dessert from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean with a dog and four dromedaries. Her father did a similar thing in the Kalahari dessert and since she’s an orphan and doesn’t have that many friends, maybe this is what she just has to do. Before embarking on her journey she works for several months at two camel farms and by chance she meets a photojournalist who agrees to help her during the trip.

This all happened in the seventies. National Geographic put her on the cover of their magazine. And so forty years later, someone thought it was a good idea to make a movie about it. If people went to see Into The Wild and made it quite successful, maybe they wanted to watch this character leave society behind and face nature on her own.

Unfortunately nothing really happens during her trip. Sure, she gets attacked by wild camels. Some disrespectful tourists take pictures of her. She loses her compass and encounters aboriginals. There’s no drama, no excitement, no real enthusiasm, no humor, no action, no horror. There’s just vast landscapes of desolate areas with an actress, so convincingly uninteresting, that if you start watching the movie being tired, you’ll fall asleep within half an hour. The best performance comes from the large male dromedary who at one time in his career was the voice of Wookie in Star Wars. A kangaroo gets shot, a hare gets grilled on the fire, the dog dies… But I guess no animal got harmed during the shooting of the picture. The soundtrack is really good though!


Western Australia, 1930s. Three half-blood aboriginal girls are taken from their village and sent to a christian camp some 1000 miles more south. Much against everyone’s advice, the oldest one decides to escape and take along her younger niece and sister. And she’s smart, because she erases her traces, so that the aboriginal tracker cannot find them. However intelligent she may be, the journey back home is long and full of dangers…

As usual, the inexperienced child actors are doing an excellent job. It’s surprising to learn that none of them continued with acting. They make the escape and journey feel very real and manage to attract the viewer directly to their adventure. That’s a merit from the director as well of course, who makes this more than just a television movie about a true event from an evil past. In fact, everyone in the cast does an excellent job. There are a lot of important scenes where the images, looks and gestures are louder than the words. Kenneth Branagh, who was the only established actor at the time of its release, also does a good job in portraying the governor, who really believes he takes away the lighter skinned aboriginals for their better good. He’s not necessary a devil as the children call him. He’s a man of principles and strong beliefs.

For those who’ve never heard about the ‘stolen generation’, they are a generation of light-skinned aboriginals who were taken from their families and raised by white people in order to make them integrate more in society. For decades Australians didn’t really know how to deal with this horrific past, but now it’s covered in almost every museum you visit and movies like these helped make people realize how terrible this was.

It’s an important and solid movie that focuses on the persistence of the girls to get back to where they belong. This alone makes this worth the watch. It’s very straightforward and somewhat predictable, but adding more drama and twists would have done the truth injustice. Especially since two of the girls were still alive when this movie came out (and are shown before the end credits roll).

Gallipoli – ***

Posted: February 18, 2014 in 1981, Australia, Historical, War, XXX

This remarkable movie features a young Mel Gibson as a runner in the Australian army. This WWI drama is unique in that it’s only a war movie in the last twenty minutes or so and that the first 90 minutes are an introduction to the very last scene. It never bores and excels with its cinematography, great period setting and silly humour. Mel Gibson is excellent even though he has more of a supporting role. The main focus lies with a young runner who prefers to go to war than train to become the nation’s best sprinter. After winning a competition, he is considered too young to join. But with persistence and the help of an – ironically – anti-war athlete (Gibson), he does manage to join up and leave for North Africa, where he later meets his runner buddy again.

This movie came to my intention after visiting the war memorial in Canberra where you get bombarded by tales of the Anzac spirit. The battle at Gallipoli (a place in Turkey, which sided with the Germans) has left a strange heroic impression on Australians. Strange because the battle was a massacre and thousands died. It’s a weird symbol of bravery and pride. But the movie makes you understand all the fuss a bit more. THe story only focuses on he battle at the final end and builds up to it in a poetic and enjoyable way. It’s patriotic for sure and a tad racist at one point (upon arrival in Egypt), but it feels real.

Ned Kelly – *1/2

Posted: February 17, 2014 in 2003, Australia, Drama, Historical, X1/2

Travelling from Albury to Melbourne makes you stop in several places like Beechworth and Glenrowan, that boom on the Australian hero hype called Ned Kelly. Everywhere you go you see references to this notorious and popular bush ranger who stood up against the Victorian police some 120 years ago. The first Australian movie dealt about his legacy and it has been retold in many different versions.

The last adaption for the big screen was made a few years ago with a stellar cast including Heath Ledger as Ned Kelly, Orlando Bloom as his buddy and Naomi Watts as his love interest. I guess they hoped to get the story across to Europe and North America as well.

Alas. They failed. To me, this Ned Kelly remains a lowlife criminal who defied the authorities. I don’t believe any of the romanticized depiction. Heath Ledger makes this crook so admirable and charming that it just doesn’t feel right. Naomi unconvincingly plays a damsel in distress, who doesn’t add anything to the story. But Orlando Bloom kind of surprises even though his character is just supporting. However, the actors are not to blame. The storytellers and the director are. If this is Australia’s favourite historical character, them Australia needs to create a new one fast. What a bore!

Sapphires – **

Posted: December 11, 2013 in 2012, Australia, Comedy, Musical, XX

Heralded as Australia’s Dreamgirls, this is a musical about four girls of aboriginal origins who manage to leave their secluded village and become singing stars in Vietnam for the American troops who are based there.

It’s enjoyable and entertaining and it has some funny dialogue.

It’s set in a period of time when Australians didn’t really show any respect at all for aboriginals and kind of fits in well with all the movies set in the American civil rights movement decades. There’s criticism to the racist society of the time, but it it’s too light to make this feel good movie a true winner. 

But again, it’s an enjoyable and entertaining movie and it has some funny dialogue.

Watch it when you’re on a plane, on a train or at home after a long day’s work. Sometimes the brain does not want to be all that active.

Also on the guest stateroom tv: Oranges and Sunshine, an Australian-British melodrama about Margaret Humphreys.

Margaret who?

Exactly. It’s a shame she isn’t known more though and it’s sad that the movie didn’t really get the attention it deserves. This is a gripping story that needs to be told. And a movie still reaches many more people than an article or a book.

Margeret Humphreys is a social worker that discovered a horrifying scandal: for years the British government took away children from poor families and sent them off to Australia where they often were abused in orphanages and schools mostly run by religious orders.

Now, that’s the story. Very gripping and shocking.

The movie however is boring at times, which is surprising, with such great dramatic material. It’s the debut of Jim Loach, son of Ken Loach. He directed a lot of tv series for the BBC and knows how to work with a low-budget. But he’s not such a good storyteller, the camerawork is awful and there wasn’t enough time and money for a good job in the editing room. Emily Watson is great as Margaret, but the rest of the acting is unremarkable (and even annoying). In other hands it could have been better. But then again, it also could have been worse.