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Black and White (2002)
A Provocative Australian Period Piece
South Australian lawyers still argue passionately about the guilt or innocence or Rupert Maxwell Stuart.
A young white girl was brutally raped and murdered.
A part-Aboriginal man was accused. He was drunk (and, by admission, lust filled) at the time the offence occurred.
At the time, the commission of such an offence would have seen Stuart swinging at the end of a rope.
Enter Robert Carlile (playing David O'Sullivan) and Kery Fox (Helen Devaney) his impoverished lawyers, passionate, and alcoholic respectively.
This is the story of how this unlikely (and tragic, for O'Sullivan and Fox, in real life, self-destructed soon afterwards) worked day and night to save Stuart from the gallows.
Instrumental in this was the young Rupert Murdoch (Ben Mendelson) and the Priest Father Tom Dixon.
The point of all this is not Stuart's guilt or innocence. It is about O'Sullivan and Fox, and their 15 minutes of fame. It is about Murdoch, and the ways in which the press influences criminal justice (there were two South Australian hangings after the Stuart case), reported, by Murdoch's "The News" in sober and pro-government terms.
For those reasons, as an examination of long ago attitudes, and of issues of press influence, this is an important film.
A great movie? Probably not? Consider the following. When Murdoch sits down with the defence team to discuss his proposed press campaign for a reprieve, and is told that if the public will not warm to Stuart's case and Murdoch will not personally intervene, "a man will die".
Murdoch replies, "then a man will die!".
This not a movie about Stuart and Chamberlain; it's about O'Sullivan, Cox, Murdoch and the media. It's about hard-working lawyers and cynical Newspapermen. And on that level, it succeeds.