with Scott Donovan & Ward Swadling
Rivers with Griff Rhys Jones (Local, $42.95)
Desperate for something to watch over a wet & cloudy weekend, I popped this series into my DVD player. Even though I watched it when it was shown on the ABC, and then watched it again on DVD you might think that it was just a time filler—something to block out the noise of the rain. Not likely. I was once again greatly rewarded by the beautiful landscapes and history as Griff Rhys Jones and his faithful chocolate-coloured labrador, Cadbury, took me on a tour of some of Britain’s iconic rivers. British rivers are not those of the Amazon or Africa. They’re small slow affairs and Griff travels at their pace, in his Canadian canoe, as he goes into the history, both political and social of these waterways, and talks to people who still use the rivers for pleasure and work. I have 2 favourite episodes: his exploration of the lowlands of East Anglia, and his trip from Liverpool on the West coast of England to Hull on the east coast via the canals of Manchester. This turned out to be a delightful way to spend a wet weekend, only interrupted to watch South Sydney win another game. Ward
Mabo: Dir. Rachel Perkins (Local, $21.95)
Mabo tells the story of Eddie Koiki Mabo, the Torres Strait Islander who left school at fifteen, yet spearheaded the High Court challenge that once and for all overthrew the notion of terra nullius. Interwoven with this David and Goliath legal battle is the love story of Koiki and Bonita, their thirty years of marriage—and the enduring partnership that fuelled their fight for Australian law to recognise traditional land rights. It is heartbreaking that Koiki never lived to hear the High Court’s decision that returned his land to him. Beautifully performed by Jimi Bani in the title role and Deborah Mailman as Bonita Mabo, Rachel Perkins’ film is an excruciating must-watch in its depiction of the casual cruelty of Australian apartheid, and of the lifetime of sacrifice truly rare people are courageous enough to make to get justice and force societal change.
Sebastian Bergman: Series 1 (Region 2, $36.95)
For you lovers of Scandinavian crime waiting impatiently for The Killing season 3, here are two new Nordic noir thrillers from the creators of the original Wallander TV shows to fill the void. Rolf Lassgård (Wallander, False Trail), is police profiler Sebastian Bergman. The strong minded Bergman is abrasive, politically incorrect ... and grief-stricken. He has lost both his wife and daughter in the 2004 Thailand tsunami and is a long way from dealing with the psychological aftermath of this tragedy—busy alienating both former colleagues and new recruits alike. In part one he helps police in his home town solve the murder of a 15-year-old boy who had an affair with one of his teachers. In the second, he attempts to catch a copy-cat serial killer who seems to be modelling his attacks on those of a jailed killer whom Bergman had put behind bars some years ago.
Sons of Cuba: Dir. Andrew Lang (Region 2, $39.95)
British director Andrew Lang’s Sons of Cuba ranks among the fairest portraits of Cuba by an outsider. Assembling an all-Cuban crew (including Domingo Triano, who worked on Memories of Underdevelopment) and granted full access to chronicle Havana’s Boxing Academy, he shows the forces that drive this institution, and by extension Cuban society. It is also a defining historical document, as it captures the anxiety created in the wake of Fidel Castro’s retirement from office and withdrawal from public life. In its focus on three boys training for Olympic glory, Lang evokes the complexity of contemporary Cuban society. And by using the observational documentary method, interspersed with detailed interviews, Lang manages to portray the various political and cultural influences that underlie a sport’s role in society. Extras in this limited edition boxed set include an examination of the film’s production and release in detail, and an exclusive director’s commentary.
Minuscule: The Private Life of Insects Complete
This entertaining animated series is sure to capture every child’s imagination as it follows the day-to-day life of a range of charming and adorable insects. In each 3 to 5 minute episode, the insects interact with each other in ways that mimic comical human behaviour. Children will be captivated as they watch ants build a plane out of newspaper, a ladybug starting a water fight with a group of dragonflies, and a snail that dreams of being the fastest insect of all. The audio is a combination of genuine insect and ambient recordings, with added synthesised buzzing generated from sound effects such as cars, helicopters, and aircraft engines. (Local, $42.95) Season 2 is also available separately at $27.95.
Tim Marlow with Gilbert & George (Local, $39.95)
British writer, broadcaster, and art historian Tim Marlow is an articulate & engaging interrogator of the creative impulse or what makes artists tick. His programs on Turner & Constable & the collections of MOMA in New York and the Tate Modern in London were screened on SBS as well as a fascinating series of interviews with contemporary luminaries from the worlds of music, design and film including Mike Leigh, Paul Smith, Tony Bennett and Renee Fleming. In Tim Marlow with Gilbert & George, Marlow interviews the British collaborative duo as they walk through a major retrospective exhibition at the Tate Modern in 2007. Best known for their Singing Sculpture of the late 60s and a prolific series of photographic works combining a bold graphic-style with frequently controversial themes and images, Gilbert & George have maintained their position as the enfants terribles of the contemporary art world now for over five decades. They find their inspiration and most of the imagery for their work in London’s East End where they live, uncovering universal truths in the local and the everyday. Their work is raw & often confronting but also full of wit & humour—a delicate balancing act of beautiful design & political & emotional force. This is an excellent introduction to an extraordinary creative output. Scott
Lip Service: Seasons 1 & 2 (Region 2, $59.95)
For Queer as Folk (both UK and US) and L Word lovers, the Gleswegians of Lip Service are a dramedy treat. Set in Glasgow, the show feels closer to the Australian experience. The Scottish local—pub, pints and drugs without automatic 12 stepping—has a deeper colonial familiarity than the cocktails and interventions of LA’s L Word. When ozzie actress Anna Skellern turns up in the 2nd season she fits right in. Lothario photographer Frankie (a nod to Prisoner methinks), uptight architect Cat (with the fantastic Scottish accent) and sometime actress, full-time loser-in-love Tess lead the cast in the first season. Fittingly for a British show there’s a Dickensian subplot involving the mysterious identity of adopted Frankie’s real mother, plus the usual 20-something romantic complications, and, in keeping with visibility politics—being a lesbian isn’t just about companionship and chaste kisses—plenty of sex. These days actors on television really have to be up for a lot of nude simulation—straight or gay. The 2nd season takes a serious left turn when actor availability apparently caused the writing out of a couple of main characters with a sudden and brutal death. The writers then pulled off an impressive feat of quietly shifting previously side-lined characters front and centre. Fiona Button as Tess has some fantastically comic moments, artful dodger Sadie gets a serious fleshing out, and Anna Skellern as Lexy really grew on me after I got used to that jarring Australian accent. The first season was good, and the second better, so I do hope there’s a third. Viki
Chad Morgan: I’m Not Dead Yet! (Local, $21.95)
Narrated by rock musician Tex Perkins, this is the ‘unplugged’ chronicle of 78 year-old, country music legend Chad Morgan and his wife Joanie, as they travel and perform throughout regional and outback Australia. Chad Morgan’s extensive body of work reveals a consummate bush storyteller with a politically incorrect twist. He sings about chasing Sheilas, fighting drongos, shotgun weddings, getting drunk, and copulating double-decker blowflies!
Patience (after Sebald): A Walk through The Rings of Saturn (Region 2, $32.95)
Grant Gee, director of the brilliant 2007 documentary Joy Division, tackles W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn in a film that is part biography, part recreation—in words and images—of the book’s rambling narrative through the East Anglia countryside, and part meditation on the physical act of reading. With contributions from major writers, artists and film-makers including Tacita Dean, Rick Moody, Adam Phillips, Iain Sinclair, Marina Warner, Sir Andrew Motion, and others, we get a sense of the author’s life and preoccupations and his unique archaeological approach to storytelling. Scott
Britain’s Lost Routes with Griff Rhys Jones (Region 2, $39.95)
In this series Griff Rhys Jones retraces the lost routes across Britain that have shaped the British landscape and history. He follows four routes; each one associated with the historic movement of people, trade or commodities and along the way provides his own perspective on contemporary British life. He shows how & why the Brits once travelled for pleasure, profit and piety by walking a Welsh pilgrim’s route, transporting hay around the Essex coast, recreating a Tudor Royal Progression and droving cattle across Scotland. Along the way he explores the landscapes and meets the people who inhabit them today, using the here and now as a portal to the past. From the luxury of a Rolls Royce to the more basic surroundings of a barge, from transporting a bus-load of contemporary pilgrims to the perils of moving a cow, he gets to grips with exactly how our ancestors journeyed from place to place—and how they amused themselves en-route. In investigating the stories of those who travelled these now forgotten paths he considers the cultural as well as environmental impact they have had on the history of Britain.
The Eye of the Storm: Dir. Fred Schepisi (Local, $39.95)
A fantastic adaptation by Judy Morris of Patrick White’s novel, starring Charlotte Rampling, Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis and Helen Morse, directed by Fred Schepisi in his first Australian outing since Evil Angels.