Cunnamulla, 800 kilometres west of Brisbane, is the end of the railway line. In the months leading up to a scorching Christmas in the bush, there's a lot more going on than the annual ...
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Cunnamulla, 800 kilometres west of Brisbane, is the end of the railway line. In the months leading up to a scorching Christmas in the bush, there's a lot more going on than the annual lizard race. Here, Aboriginal and white Australians live together but apart. Creativity struggles against indifference, eccentricity against conformity. Written by
This documentary is to be admired for bringing rare voice and - despite itself - a degree of dignity to the down-and-outs (or soon to be; this is what is implied at least) of a remote-ish Queensland town. But making grand statements about the Australian outback and its ethnically and financially troubled communities is not within the power of this film, however hard it may try. The kind of community and family dysfunction O'Rourke has discovered is hardly unique to rural people. It is also preposterous to focus on one group of troubled or unhappy people and categorise all others accordingly (what else could the title "Cunnamulla" mean?).
In that light the reported anger and sense of betrayal felt by some of Cunnamulla's citizenry upon the release of the film is understandable. Also understandable is the legal action commenced against O'Rourke by at least one of the female minors in the film.
But that's not to say there isn't room for exploring white-black relations or rural poverty in an Australian documentary. If anything, these are problems - a dirty secret - that lie across Australia like a stinking fog. You could make similar documentaries with titles like "Kempsey" or "Wilcannia" and find rich pickings for examining such problems. It's just that "Cunnamulla" hasn't turned out to be the vehicle for it.
For all that there are still many memorable moments. The scenes with the DJ remain with me - wherever he is I wish him the best.
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