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Thursday, 16 June 2016

Sydney Film Festival (8) - Barrie Pattison reports on the World Premiere of Down Under (Abe Forsythe, Australia, 2016, 88 minutes)

An ocker comedy about the 2005 Cronulla riots - maybe - but that needs real finesse.

Here we kick off with the actual text message sent the day before that called for patriotic Australians to drive  the menace of the Lebanese off  the Beaches, and we get into actuality or re-staged actuality of the streets engulfed with rioters in “Ethnic Cleansing” shirts and police driving back hoon attackers.

The action takes place the day after, with Ockers and outraged Lebs recruiting
(“There’ll be fuck loads of cars”) to patrol the streets that night. The Aussie lead is more worried about his missing brother and looking after the Downs Syndrome kid who just slammed the family car into the garage roller door. Enlisted by a gung ho friend they are given a WW1 303 with one bullet and a grenade held together with Blutack. A Lebanese car lot do better, scoring a hand gun from a luxury meths lab, who demand the driver’s trousers - “to make sure you’re not wearing a wire.”

The film is planting the elements for the ending rather obviously at this stage. There are a few successful blackly comic moments, like the new car load of hard case racists demanding the boy beat up a passing Leb (he turns out to be the Chinese news agent they know, out walking his dog) or the car diverting from it’s Patriotic Mission with the takeaway kebabs the driver’s pregnant girl friend demands, under the penalty of three maintenance orders.

The night time suburban beach atmosphere is quite well set up but the development is marred by the familiar movie character ability to take beatings undamaged and the fact that the people fronting it remain fugitives from local sitcoms from which they were recruited.

Music is particularly destructive to the balance between cautionary tale, movie suspense and knockabout they are trying to establish.

Even writing about a film using the Cronulla riots as a subject is a delicate task. TV
director Abe Forsythe  (the “Ned Kelly was Irish” business recalls his earlier Ned) needed to bring more than the sensibility of a Housos episode to pull this off. It will be interesting to see what sort of a response Forsythe’s  film gets.

World Premiere in the State Theatre. Repeat screening (over) at the Dendy Newtown.

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