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When first classified by the Australian Film Censorship Board, this film garnered an R-rating, restricted to persons 18+ and over. The rating was appealed, and the Australian Films Board of Review over-turned this rating and the film was re-classified with an M rating, suitable for persons 15+ and over. See more »
Fred Schepisi's 1978 film may well be just that but it's not included in my Australian Cinema 12 disc boxed set and I've never known it to be on TV, here. I became aware of it through my old film 'bible' Halliwells and they rated it very highly, awarding a rare maximum score, citing it as 'one of the greatest achievements in Australian cinema'.
It's taken me a good number of years to finally find a copy that was on region of DVD I could play and wasn't a silly price.
The first thing you notice is the sheer authenticity. Language is as brutal as any and is more akin to a Victorian Scorsese than starched collars and stiff upper lips. The language used to describe the aboriginal natives is as coarse and racist as you'll find in any gritty 70's set LA cop show and for that it is both upsetting and rather embarrassing, but at least goes to show the leaps and bounds humankind has largely made on this issue, since.
Jimmie Blacksmith is a half-cast, a subject that has been visited in a few memorable films, particularly 'Rabbit Proof Fence' and as 'these' were often the result of rape against white women, were seen as worse than the lowest. Jimmie (superbly played by Tommy Lewis) does have an advantage, he's overseen by the local white vicar and is known as a hard and honest worker.
He soon goes on to work for white farmers, along with his fully aboriginal brother, erecting fences. Miles of them. He does too good a job and they don't want to pay, so he moves on. His relationship with a white girl, then marriage results in a child, that by colour alone, cannot be his. Then, around half-way in, all this pent-up anger boiling up inside the civilised and decent Jimmie erupts. This is when the violence (extreme in its day, now, maybe sadly, average) erupts as he goes on a vengeful killing spree.
I need not go further than this, except that obviously, he is then a wanted criminal and a fugitive on the run.
There's a real sense of the epic, with cinematic hints and nods to Nicolas Roeg's 'Walkabout', with the natural geography, fauna and the culture all vividly brought to life, superbly filmed by Ian Baker .
Thankfully - hopefully, this can now be seen as a historical drama, the like of which can never happen again. It is as hard-hitting and making as powerful a statement on in-bred racism there is and is without doubt a five star classic.
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