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Lovely little TV film ... just a pity change is still slow coming in Australia
I think the summary says it all. Dramatised as it is, everyone in Australia should watch this film to understand, and maybe even feel the very, ordinary human side to the Mabo story. Though Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders only make up a tiny proportion of this great country's population, and have little visibility in day to day life ... it's 20 years since the Mabo decision and I think we owe it to ourselves to do better, faster! It's a joke that peoples that have lived here for at least 40 thousand years don't have much of a say, even in a token way, in regard to their their ancestral territories and resources. My only criticism is the use of Deborah Mailman in the main female role. Yes, she's a great actress, and I'm sure that will help give the film legs ... but it would've been nice to see another Aboriginal or Torres Strait actress for a change. Poor woman seems to be every female Aboriginal character in every local film that requires one!
Half Nelson (2006)
Finally ... a quiet, honest American film
Finally ... a quiet, honest American film.
I know, I know, there are a lot of great American indies that come out every year. But then, there is the trend of indies becoming the new mainstream. Film fest after film fest, award after award. All the time Hollywood thinking 'how can we make money outta this goofy thang' and 'hell, if we can't beat 'em, co-opt 'em'.
'Half Nelson' is not nipped and tucked, botoxed, teeth whitened, plucked, waxed, lasered, or air brushed. It presents the best drama going; seemingly 'life as it is': half lifes,and half chances, crack pipes and all. It throws in black vs. white and a sprinkling of politics for good measure. But it doesn't do it with a heavy hand. Violence and gun smoke are absent. So are bi-polar class and racial politics. This is not a typical old Brooklyn streetside state of mind.
'Half Nelson' instead tells its story with rare delicacy, honesty, and heart. Of a brilliant teacher and after-hours junkie. A student cum confident, possibly wise beyond her years. And the class room, school corridor, toilet, gym, playground, and neighbourhood they inhabit. The 'bad' teacher. The 'curious' student. The 'good' drug lord. The complications, the frustrations, the mastications of body and mind in the world as it is: one which they don't have all the answers for, and one that they don't fully control.
It could all get rather depressing. However, the dreams, kindnesses, and ordinariness of ordinary people in (sometimes extraordinary but) mostly ordinary circumstances, steer a course towards hope. Shedding some light on a grey concrete urban 21st century American world.
The performances of Ryan Gosling (Dan, the teacher) and Shareeka Epps (Drey, the student) are insightful and outstanding. As is the direction and vision of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden.
'Half Nelson' gives nothing but its fullest.