He’s been the voice of Olaf in Frozen and Chuck in The Angry Birds Movie. Now American star Josh Gad, 39, pitches up as Mulch Diggums, a kleptomaniac dwarf in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Artemis Fowl, a family fantasy adventure based on the best-selling books by Eoin Colfer.
Told with the buttery, nay, insensitive, sensibilities of 2018’s Green Book, historical-drama Burden is a film about Black suffering designed for white self-gratification.
Based on the real-life story of small-town South Carolinian debt-collector Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund), a reformed Ku Klux Klansman who accepts refuge in the house belonging to Black rights activist Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker), the film takes to contrasting extreme ideologies to craft a rumination on class, masculinity, and racism in rural America.
Problematic storytelling elements – ‘white-man-learning’ and ‘magical-negro’ tropes – exist within Burden as misguided attempts to depict ‘history’. Andrew Heckler – who makes his writing and directorial debut – appears pushed by a desire to present progressivism, not as a form of righteousness, but as a response to despondency.
Even when Burden attempts to evoke distress by re-enacting the racial injustice of ‘90s America, the brunt of which still exists in present-day, the film becomes undercut by the perpetual use of lingering face shots of Klansmen to denote some inkling of remorse. The film sets its sights on offering a skerrick of hope that these figures have capacity to change, with Klansmen, even if for a moment, having the ability to comprehend the weight of their abuse. This, to the detriment of the film, inappropriately offers sympathy to problematic figures.
Supporting characters, including love-interest Judy (Andrea Riseborough), and head Klansman and proprietor of a newly acquired Klan museum (Tom Wilkinson) fall asunder to cardboard characterisation.
As Americans bravely protest against racial inequality, Burden’s optimism is well-intentioned, but becomes diffused by Heckler’s presentation of racism through the lens of a white character’s moral redemption.
The film, much like its title, becomes burdened by a history of filmmaking that whitewashes Black narrative.
Filmmaker/steelworker Robynne Murphy’s previous film that appeared at the Sydney Film Festival was Bellbird, way back in 1974. She was part of the first intake to AFTRS’ [Australian Film Television & Radio School] filmmaking course. Women of Steel sees her combine knowledge accumulated in both careers.
Picturesque Wollongong, south of Sydney, was a different story in 1980 when the behemoth BHP Steelworks dominated the skyline, spewing forth pollution by the tonne, supporting over 20,000 mostly migrant workers. Among these, only a handful were women and ‘The Big Australian’ [BHP] wanted to keep it that way.
Denied jobs at the steelworks – the city’s main employer –working-class/migrant women refused to accept discrimination. Taking their cue from the Aboriginal Tent embassy set up in 1972 outside parliament house in Canberra, a group of shunned women set up a tent outside BHP’s factory gate demanding equal opportunity. Putting up banners, handing out fliers, creating petitions, they slowly gained the support of company employees, ironically burning coal in a steel bucket to keep warm, supplied by workers from one of BHP’s coal mines.
Their struggle unfolds into the first ‘class’ action suit against the company, taking them to the High Court of Australia and changing the rules for women throughout the country.
Murphy’s film is a story of perseverance and comradeship told with emotion and humour, mostly through archival footage and interviews. It’s an important piece of filmmaking about this country’s industrial relations history and should be seen by a wide audience.
Cornel Ozies started his extensive career as a video editor at his local TV station ‘Goolarri’ in Broome Western Australia; he went on to win awards for films including Jarlmadangah Dreams and Bollywood Dreaming. Our Law is his latest offering, produced and filmed on location in WA.
Set in Warakurna – a town located 330 kilometres west of Uluru at the base of the majestic yet oddly named ‘Rawlinson Ranges’. Brevet Senior Sergeant’s Revis Ryder and Wendy Kelly are the local cops presiding over the only police station run entirely by indigenous officers in Western Australia. Their main barrier to effective communication with the local community is the fact that many residents only speak the local dialect Ngaanyatjarra. They’ve realised that language builds rapport and are doing their best, with help from the locals to get a grip on it. It’s a difficult task; Papa means dog for example, not grandpa.
In contrast to most communities, the cops in Warakurna are beloved by the locals, policing by getting to know the community and talking through problems, building mutual respect.
Ryder coaches the footy team and Kelly works with the local women making bush medicines. It’s a sad day for the community when Sergeant Kelly leaves to take up a position 1100km’s away in Kalgoorlie, she’s off to work on a police reconciliation action plan and to train WA police in building relationships with aboriginal communities. Watching the nightly news, perhaps she could follow this up by training police officers in the USA as well?
Cinematographer Sam Bhodi Field beautifully captures the magnificent landscapes of outback Western Australia.
Our Law could be a blueprint for future policing techniques in Australia.
The Slamdance Film Festival runs concurrently with Sundance and is committed to unearthing new filmmaking talent. This was very much the case with Andrew Patterson, 37, who has emerged as a filmmaker to watch with his debut feature, the moody sci-fi drama The Vast of Night.
Celeste Ng's best-seller is adapted as an 8 part series with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington co-producing and starring in this complex tale of race, class, privilege, feminism and motherhood, with a compelling mystery thrown in to keep you hooked from the first scenes.