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Let's all go to TAFE instead!
karLcx12 December 2001
This is another quality offering from Robin Anderson and Bob Connolly, creators of Rats in the Ranks. I think this documentary was made to make people angry about the way educational institutions are operated. If people aren't angry after seeing this, maybe they should be.
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Beethoven v. Milton Friedman
Spod-321 August 2001
This is an impassioned defence of all the worthwhile qualities in academia which are threatened with extinction by the ruthless application of 'user-pays' economic-rationalist funding regimes. What more eloquent argument is there than music itself which forms the backdrop to this angry, moving film. Basically the film charts a year or so in the life of Ann Boyd, head of the Sydney University Dept. of Music, which is facing death by a thousand cuts as its budget is whittled away year by year. All the philistines in the Federal government who are responsible for this disgraceful situation should be made to watch this film, a la "Clockwork Orange". Some of the scenes feel a bit intrusive of the people in them, but like all good documentaries the narration and captions are kept to a minimum and the situations and people speak for themselves
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facing down the rationalists
Philby-311 August 2001
Robin Anderson and Bob Connolly must be two of the world's luckiest fly on the wall documentary film makers. They set up their cameras of the music department of the University of Sydney and over 9 months captured an engrossing if somewhat depressing drama of good people battling against the odds to do their job the only way they know how in the face of economic rationalism and indifference to the arts. The centre of the action, Professor Ann Boyd, is a dedicated teacher and distinguished composer who has to do all of that including a triple teaching load while running her small department in the face of continual budget cuts. In the course of the year she goes from opposing strike action to manning the barricades as things get worse and she finds out that the great and the good in the university hierarchy pay lip service only to the values she thought the place was supposed to be run on.

Choosing the music department to do this story, which has been repeated in universities all over Australia in the last 10 years, was particularly inspired because of - well, the music. The place is stuffed with student talent and some of them already perform to concert standard. So there's lots of good music performed with great vigour and freshness, giving an ironic gaiety to the sad story. The story is indeed seamless – a remarkable feat in documentary making – and the music is also woven in perfectly.

The rationalists would no doubt say that a music department is a luxury our modern university cannot afford and musical skills are better taught in somewhere like the Sydney Conservatorium. After all, isn't music really just a trade? Do musicians really need to study Goethe? Ann Boyd convincingly demonstrates the shallowness of this view. Music proceeds out of culture, and our culture is not taught in trade schools. The wells of creativity are deep and complex and come from many sources. She may be a bit of a blue-stocking and wedded to old-fashioned standards but her music is innovative and her teaching (which she loves) inspiring.

Anyway, an exceptionally good documentary. Caution for University teachers; this film will not cheer you up. It might get more of you to the barricades though.
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Fly on Wall sees more than intended
verododat13 October 2004
What this excellent piece of cinema verite actually reveals is not so much a gallant department struggling against fiscal horrors (and these are certainly real) but some sobering truths about tenured university teachers . The real centre of the film is the self obsession and self interest of the departmental staff - top heavy even for an older university.Facing the Music is great film-making but is also a classic case of a wily subtext overwhelming the filmmakers' intended message .

The dramatic payoff -Professor Boyd's rather derivative Anglican church music- is presented to a posh and bourgeois audience and hardly seems the stuff to inspire anyone other than those who believe liturgical music stopped in the mid 1930s.Certainly not contemporary music students.

The true hero of this movie is 'Chris' -the administrative officer who is holding the leaky vessel together .She us surrounded by wailing and weeping teachers, all claiming stress and untimely death as the clear fate for such sensitive souls as they. Around them the wonderful young students practise and create away and provide for the soundtrack a glorious and ironic counterpoint. Naturally not one of them gets to speak! The whole doco reveals, quite starkly, that claiming 'standards' and higher goals' than the students or mere administration could ever comprehend is shown up for the special pleading it is -all in one key scene where a quavering female student is monstered into tears in the name of Art. A clear case of the 'speaking subject' talking too much.Very revealing indeed.
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