Wrong Kind of Black (TV Mini-Series 2018) Poster

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robjohnwolfe21 September 2018
I thought I knew of the struggle of the Aboriginal people but after watching THE WRONG KIND OF BLACK, I realised I knew nothing. Set in the 70's, this is the true story of an ordinary Aboriginal man from Townsville who became truly extraordinary. Boori Monty Pryor is a young DJ in a thriving Melbourne metropolis, trying to find his way, fit in and stay out of trouble. He finds himself thrust into the evolving face of modern Australian culture and ultimately becomes a powerful instrument of change. For the most part this story makes it's point in a very funny and entertaining way, however I must warn you, it does sneak up on you and punch you in the guts. It is a punch that you need to feel. At least I needed to feel it. Regardless of your culture, race or background you will be able to relate to this story because it is a personal story... a human story. THE WRONG KIND OF BLACK will make you laugh, make you think, make you cry and leave you a better human being than you were before you saw it.
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Grab a pizza and don't fall asleep! 80%
dfle331 August 2018
Based on real events, this film tells the story of Monty Pryor (played by Clarence John Ryan), an Aboriginal Australian, originally from Palm Island, who later called Townsville home and then worked as a DJ in the Albion Charles Hotel, which he describes in the narration as "the roughest pub in Melbourne". The film (I should point out that I saw this as a film, on ABC TV, although I did notice that on ABC's iView online viewing platform it was segmented into parts and even IMDB lists this as a "TV mini-series" with 4 parts) cuts between Monty's time in Melbourne, Victoria, 1976 (aged 26) and Palm Island, Queensland, 1962, when he was 12 years old.

Working at the Albion Charles, Monty has to deal with patrons like the Russian Mafia ex-convict who likes to play Russian roulette...inside the pub! On Palm Island, a young Monty has to deal with colonisation of his home by white institutions such as the Catholic Church and the police, where themes of assimilation and resistance and culture are raised.

A narrative impetus arises when Monty decides to move to Perth, Western Australia, in order to work as a DJ in a nightclub over there. This move gives rise to the title of this film and there is an interesting dynamic when Monty introduces himself to the bartender at the nightclub that he was hired to work at.

Throughout this film there are little moments of racism towards Monty and major moments of racism towards him or his family. Although I had never heard of Monty, watching this film, I saw that he was a significant figure in Australia by virtue, really, of the colour of his skin and racial background.

The promo for this film on ABC TV made me think that it was a comedy of sorts (so, it was a little bit misleading in that sense although this film is not without amusing moments) and I'm not sure if I should feel embarrassed to write that up until the closing credits I was under the impression that I had been watching Richard Ayoade playing Monty. Ayoade is, of course, one of the stars of the classic British sitcom "The IT crowd". In my defence, there was something about the promo which just lent itself to that assumption...the physical similarity in appearance between Ayoade and Ryan, as well as their demeanour and the kind of comedy depicted in the promo. Perhaps it was just my imagination, but Ryan even sounded a bit English in the promo and one of the scenes in that just reinforced this impression.

This film was tracking to score in the low to mid-70s for me, but I quite liked the turn that it took towards the end, where it became more serious. In my notes for this film, I wrote that "Richard shows great depth to his character & capable of greater range than what his IT Crowd character displayed" (I did appreciate the subtlety of Ryan's performance when his character returns home to Townsville). It's good that an actual Aboriginal Australian starred in this film (there are other major characters who are also Aboriginal)...as a child, I was a fan of the commercial TV drama "Boney", which I found out some years ago had cast a Maori (I think!) in the lead role of an Aboriginal tracker. Oddly, when the concept was rebooted, a white Australian, Cameron Daddo, played the role of "Bony". No doubt all these kinds of issues can poke at cultural sensitivities. Just looking at the Wikipedia entry for the original TV series now, it's intriguing to read why it did not get picked up in the US, where the books which the series was based on, was more popular than they were in Australia: "According to John McCallum, several attempts to sell the series to distributors in the United States were rejected as they could not accept that a police detective, along with most of the criminals he hunted, did not use firearms".

There is a coda to this film where we get to see the real Boori Monty Pryor and how his life evolved after personal tragedy. That stands in contrast to the film's themes of racism, discrimination and the institutional threat of violence.

Notes to self:

* when your spirit's gone, your body is an empty shell. The body must follow the spirit. They cannot be parted".

* Not sure if there was some anachronistic music in this film. E.g. I could see a Billy Joel single, "A matter of trust" on the screen; Monty must have written "Truley" for the song of that name by Lionel Rtchie; a 1986 song, "The way it is", by Bruce Hornsby is in shot too.

* Aboriginal words/phrases (unsure of spelling): migaloos; dounghai; munjin mulang; kunta kinte; moy-yoo; buddha (for brother); gammin

* Mrs Griffith's chicken...I just wondered whether the boys would not have noticed it at their home...assuming that it wasn't eaten!

* Curious about the significance of the story of the stingray.

* Curious as to the name of the song which appears in this film...it has the lyric: "as though it was yesterday I remember your voice but my song is the only what I can talk to you now"

* An episode of South Park made me look twice at a poster in the pub in 1976 which had the phrase "Red rocket"!

* In the coda, you see Boori with clothes that refers to merch: My Girragundji; Maybe tomorrow;
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