What We're Reading / What We’re Watching: July Edition

At a loss for what to watch this July? Feast your eyes on these goodies, straight from our loungerooms to yours.

You Can’t Ask That: Chinese-Australians

Martyn Reyes, Project and Communications Officer

This is one of my favourite factual programs to have come out of Australia in the last couple of years, particularly because of the way it creates counter-narratives that challenge popular portrayals. The show highlights people and communities that exist within the margins, such as sex workers, African Australians, survivors of domestic violence – the list goes on. The way the show is formatted and edited is a big highlight for me, as they do it in a way that’s funny and delightful, while also being at times serious and sombre. It also gives people of the community being questioned the agency and authority to speak of their personal experiences, which they aren’t normally afforded. 

I had been meaning to watch this particular episode for two reasons. Firstly, the very talented writer Jinghua Qian features in it, and secondly, while I may not be Chinese, I have a strong interest in the stories and representations of Asian people within Australia. I also thought it’d be interesting to see how this episode played out in light of the increased violence against Chinese Australians during COVID. While it didn’t address that area head on, the episode was insightful, engaging and made me laugh out loud. Watch it now on ABC iview.

The Cry

Nikole Evans, Administration Officer

I can’t believe this show premiered in 2018 and I’m only watching it now! Let me tell you, it’s a great lockdown number to binge if you like mystery dramas. With beautiful scenes of an arid Australia, the cinematography is enthralling. Jenna Coleman’s performance is not to be missed along with an all-star Australian cast that includes Asher Keddie and Ewen Leslie. With only four episodes, this miniseries will leave you on the edge of your seat and wishing for a second season.

The premise: Joanna (Jenna Coleman) and her husband Alistair (Ewen Leslie) are new parents to baby Noah. Leaving him in the car one night as they pop into the supermarket, they return to discover him missing. Unsurprisingly, they are both key suspects in his disappearance, something that tests their marriage to breaking point. Who took Noah and where is he now? Could one of his parents be to blame? Watch the trailer here.

The Cry provides a chilling insight into a parent’s worst nightmare and the way stories can be manipulated based on perception. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and watch it now on ABC iview.

The Tailings

Jane McCredie, CEO

I recently watched The Tailings, an engaging noir murder mystery set in an old mining town in the wilds of western Tasmania. Written by Tasmanian schoolteacher and playwright Caitlin Richardson, the TV series was made as part of a Screen Australia and SBS Digital Originals initiative to support diverse writers, including those from regional areas. Filmed in Queenstown, the series packs a lot into its six 10-minute episodes. It highlights environmental damage, as well as class and disadvantage in a mining community in decline, but perhaps more than anything this is a series about grief. Mabel Li, in her first role after graduating from NIDA, is particularly impressive as troubled schoolteacher Ruby Lau. Watch it now on SBS On Demand.

Trapped and EXPOSED: The Ghost Train Fire

Rowena Tuziak, Membership and Operations Manager

I’m probably about ten years late in discovering Nordic Noir. Last lockdown I focused on upbeat, light-hearted romps, but now I’m leaning into the dark, and Trapped on SBS On Demand has delivered.

There is something about being immersed in umlauts, diving into the lives of Icelandic townsfolk, amidst blizzards and intrigue, that feels like complete escape. It’s like a virtual holiday, but with slightly fewer souvenir shops, and considerably more corpses.

When a severed torso is uncovered in the waters off a small Icelandic fishing port, all eyes turn to the international ferry docked nearby. But in this town, everyone is a suspect, as the seedy underbelly of this remote community is revealed. As this crime-drama unpeels its layers, there are mysteries within mysteries. Halfway through the first series it seems that all is solved, but then it takes a turn and continues for another five episodes! With two seasons at ten episodes each, this is perfect binge viewing. We’re all feeling trapped, so might as well enjoy it! Seasons 1 and 2 of Trapped are online now.

If you like your crime drama closer to home and a little more real, you must watch EXPOSED: The Ghost Train Fire on ABC iview. This extraordinary Australian documentary reveals the lies and coverup surrounding the 1979 fire that ripped through the Ghost Train at Sydney’s Luna Park, killing six children and one adult. With gripping interviews featuring witnesses, investigators, police, and families, award-winning journalist, Caro Meldrum-Hanna uncovers the deception that was hiding in plain sight. This is such extraordinary storytelling, with impressive investigative journalism, exposing Sydney’s own seedy underbelly.


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