with Scott Donovan & Ward Swadling
Sing Your Song: The Story of Harry Belafonte ($32.95)
I watched this excellent documentary on the same night that former Liberal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Mal Brough appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 Report acknowledging the failure of successive governments to seriously address Aboriginal disadvantage leading to a two-tiered system in this country, which he described as closely resembling apartheid. Brough attributed this situation to the overwhelming indifference of the wider Australian community to the problems besetting our Indigenous population—which he said could only be interpreted as a form of racism. Brough’s comments were in response to a report the previous night about the Aboriginal township of Toomelah on the NSW/Queensland border, which had imploded in a self-destructive cycle of violence, sexual abuse and alcohol and drug related problems. He pointed to the muted response to this report in contrast to the public outrage caused by another ABC report last year dealing with the mistreatment of Australian cattle exports to Indonesia. It seemed people were simply not interested.
Sing Your Song is an account of the key role Harry Belafonte played in the American Civil Rights movement of the 60s and 70s, and to social justice globally. Belafonte used his considerable profile and influence as an entertainer to draw attention to a range of causes from civil rights in the US, the anti war movement (Vietnam & Iraq), the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, the elimination of poverty and famine in Africa and many other issues of inequity and injustice at home and abroad—and he remains a passionate and articulate spokesman for human rights today. In one remarkable episode, Belafonte sponsored an exchange programme of students from Kenya to the US in the late 1950s which included a young Barack Obama Snr—cause, no doubt, of considerable satisfaction to Belafonte when Obama Jnr became the 44th President of the United Sates some 50 years later! This is a terrific documentary which will inspire and galvanise people to fight injustice wherever it is found. Scott
Peter Kosminsky Collection (Region 2, $69.95)
British director Peter Kosminsky makes intelligent well-crafted political dramas for television and has won many awards during a 30 year career—first at the BBC and more recently at Channel 4. The powerful 4 part series The Promise—about British soldiers stationed in Palestine during the Mandate period 1945–1948 and the impact of those events on the current situation in Israel/Palestine—screened on SBS earlier this year and is now available on DVD along with the 2007 series Britz and the tele-movie The Government Inspector in a very reasonably priced box set ($69.95). Britz, made in the wake of the 7/7 bombings in London, examines what it meant to be a second-generation Muslim living in Britain at that time. It tells the story of brother and sister Sohail and Nasima, one an ambitious law undergraduate who signs up with MI5 and begins an investigation into a terrorist cell, the other a medical student in Leeds who becomes increasingly alienated and angered by Britain’s foreign and domestic policy after witnessing at first hand the relentless targeting of her Muslim neighbours and peers. Britain’s draconian anti-terrorist legislation impacts on both lives with tragic effect. The Government Inspector, based on the true story of Dr David Kelly, Britain’s head weapons inspector in Iraq, examines the events leading up to Kelly’s suspicious death following information being leaked to the press about the government’s unsuccessful efforts to find Saddam’s secret weapons of mass destruction. Both The Promise ($42.95) and Britz (Region 2, $24.95) are available as individual titles but The Government Inspector is only available as part of this box set. All three are highly recommended. Scott
River Cottage Autumn (Region 2, $36.95)
Escape to River Cottage: The Complete Series $45.95
Return to River Cottage: The Complete Series $45.95
Is there a more appealing TV chef than Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall? Not only does he create mouth-watering dishes but also grows, rears, harvests, slaughters and butchers his own produce and teaches ordinary people around Britain to do likewise in a national campaign for healthy and sustainable living. And all with great wit and charm that can win over the most confirmed junk food addict (and in Britain there seems quite a few!). Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage project encompasses restaurants and cafes serving delicious seasonal produce, courses on sustainable low impact farming practices, and a range of DVDs, books, and an excellent website to promote a healthier and more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Great fun family viewing. Scott
Iron Sky (Region 2, $39.95)
In the last moments of World War II, a secret Nazi space programme avoided Allied destruction by making a daring escape to the Moon. In the intervening 70 years they have re-colonised, re-armed with devastating new weapons and silently plotted their revenge. When an American astronaut stumbles upon their secret Moon lair, the Führer (Udo Kier) decides to unleash their alien armada upon the unprepared Earth, to be led by ruthless army leader Klaus Alder (Gotz Otto). Now every man, woman and child must unite to repel the UFO Nazi invasion and save humanity! Enjoyably silly in a Saturday afternoon B movie kind of way.
The Kid with a Bike ($31.95)
Belgian film making duo, brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, began making narrative and documentary films in the late 1970s and came to international attention in the mid-1990s with La Promesse (The Promise)—all their films since have played at the Cannes main competition. Their latest film, The Kid with a Bike, won the 2011 Grand Prix at Cannes. It is the coming of age story of 11 year-old Cyril. He has been abandoned by his father and has been placed in state care. When he attempts escape from the children’s home to go looking for his father he meets Samantha (the town hairdresser)—who agrees to foster Cyril on the weekends—and in spite of the boy’s self-destructive rage, the two lonely souls slowly start to develop a special bond.
Bergerac: The Complete Fourth Season ($42.95)
Jim Bergerac is a recovering alcoholic, divorcée and father to a young daughter. He is a Detective Sergeant with the Bureau des Étrangers, a department for non-residents on the Channel Island of Jersey. Series 4 finds Bergerac in possibly his most serious relationship since the break-up of his marriage—if beautiful estate agent Susan Young can endure the detective’s unyielding dedication to his job. Meanwhile, the captivating, but as yet uncaptured, jewel thief Philippa Vale returns to the island. Does her unfinished business include Jersey’s maverick cop? This set delivers all 9 uncut episodes from the 4th series plus the 1986 feature-length Christmas Special.
The Portuguese Nun (Region 2, $39.95)
New York born France-based director Eugene Green’s much talked about film follows Julie, a young French actress shooting a film in Lisbon about a 17th Century nun who is seduced by a soldier. Among the city’s enigmatic and transient inhabitants, she encounters a young nun and the exchange between the two women changes Julie’s destiny forever. Beautiful both visually and aurally, with a soundtrack full of Portuguese song.
Those Who Kill (Region 2, $61.95)
Those Who Kill is a new Danish series. Katrine Jensen (Laura Bach) heads a special squad within the Copenhagen Police force that investigates serial killings. Lars Mikkelson (mayoral candidate Troels Hartmann in The Killing) plays her boss Magnus Bisgaard. These are fairly generic procedurals—nothing that hasn’t been written before, but of course all blanketed in that chilling Copenhagen cold, grey, bleak, winter. Along with the weather, it’s the characters that make this show stand out. Katrine & Thomas are your typical troubled coppers—Katrine has issues from her childhood, and Thomas is going through a divorce. The tension between Thomas and Katrine reminds me of Fox and Scully from the X-Files. There are 6 feature length episodes—and I warn you, don’t get too relaxed—there’s quite a sting in the last ep. This is good TV.
The Spy in Black (Region 2, $29.95)
In this 1939 film, the first collaboration between Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Captain Hardt (Conrad Veidt), a World War I German submarine commander, is ordered to lead a mission to attack the British Fleet at Scapa Flow. He puts ashore on the Orkney Islands to meet his contact but finds more than he bargained for in the local schoolmistress (Valerie Hobson). The film was named by the National Board of Review as one of the Top 10 films of 1939.