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.

Three Identical Strangers

Claire Thompson, Program Officer

Three Identical Strangers is a documentary covering an incredible true story about identical triplets who were separated at birth and reunited by chance when they were 19. The documentary begins as a feel-good story about how the triplets bonded immediately through their shared traits (similar hand gestures, they smoked the same cigarette brand and had the same taste in women). After the triplets’ discovery, they were invited to be on multiple talk shows and even ended up opening their own restaurant which was very successful due to their fame. This all happened in 1980, but if it was 2020, I’m sure their story would have gone viral on YouTube and TikTok. The triplets welcomed the attention and were thrilled to be reunited with one another. 

However, the story takes a dark turn when questions start being asked about how the triplets came to be separated at birth. They all came from the same adoption agency in New York, but the adoptive parents weren’t informed their son was a triplet. An investigation ensues, which reveals startling facts. Three Identical Strangers is a fascinating documentary which gives a human aspect to one of the most common questions asked in psychology: does nature or nurture have a greater influence over the people we become?

How Deadly

Ashley Kalagian Blunt, Senior Program Officer

How Deadly is a series of short videos featuring ABC’s resident ’nature nerd’, Ann Jones, available on iView. In them, she answers all the pressing questions: how realistic are the crocodile scenes in movies like Lake Placid and Crocodile Dundee? Are snakes cannibals? How do kangaroos feel about parachutes? How many people have been murdered by emus? And how did they train Skippy to perform all those stunts? 

How Deadly is worth watching to hear Ann refer to snakes as ‘bush tinsel’, and for the revelation that swooping ‘maggies’ have particular proclivities: some hate bike riders, some go after posties because of their hi-vis gear, and – because they can recognise faces – some target specific individuals. So if you’re getting swooped, remember – it might be personal. 

Melbourne International Film Festival 68 ½

Sarah Mott, Project and Communications Officer

MIFF 68 ½, like the recent SFF, will be presenting the 2020 program entirely online. This is great for those of us who don’t want to touch Victoria with a 10-foot pole right now.

The program, running from 6 – 23 August, will feature international and local films, as well as online panel talks and Q&As. The program itself seems more robust that the recent SFF, but maybe that is simply due to more time to scrabble under 2020 social distancing measures. While most feature films require paid access (still cheaper than physical screenings), there are short film bundles that will be streaming free across the festival. We are slowly, slowly moving towards presentation structures that are accessible to more than able-bodied, inner-city audiences with money to spend.

Highlights of the program are the spotlight feature Boys State (dir. Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss), if you’re open to severe discomfort and Lord of the Flies; Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky (dir. Steven McGregor), a unique and powerful response from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and musicians to the 250th anniversary of Cook’s arrival; Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) (dir. Monica Zanetti) is a hilarious and tender local queer coming of age film that you need to see if you missed it at the Mardi Gras Film Festival; and the Animation Shorts Bundle features gems such as Flesh (dir. Camila Kater), Kapaemahu (dir. Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson) and Wade (dir. Kalp Sanghvi, Upamanyu Bhattacharyya).

Top End Wedding and In My Blood It Runs

Lou Garcia-Dolnik, Membership and Administration Officer

Top End Wedding is a gem of a movie. Directed by Wayne Blair, who also delivered The Sapphires and so many Black Comedy skits that still have me cackling several years after they originally aired, Get Krack!n co-star and author of the recently released Top End Girl, Miranda Tapsell, plays successful lawyer and soon-to-be wife to the goofy Ned, who tracks Darwin to the Tiwi Islands to find her runaway mum. Along the way, we get treated to jaw-dropping views of Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge, the NT and Tiwi Islands, and appearances from Elaine Crombie, Ursula Yovich, and Rob Collins. Tapsell is fire: her rendering of Lauren, in love, surrounded by Blak love, though aching from the (temporary) loss of her mum is nothing short of stunning. She also co-wrote the thing. What a bloody legend. I’m not a huge rom com buff, but Top End Wedding stole my heart. I won’t spoil things for you, but hang on until you get to the Tiwi Islands—so beautiful.

This month, I also watched the feature documentary In My Blood It Runs, following 10-year-old Arrernte boy Dujuan in his journey through the primary school education system in Mparntwe (Alice Springs). Over the course of the film, we see Dujuan, young, intelligent, with a boisterous and loving sense of humour, repeatedly alienated and shamed by his teachers who regurgitate the ideologies of the murder nation-state that is ‘Australia’ and expect compliance, which Dujuan, an Arrernte speaker/learner, healer and proud Aboriginal boy, doesn’t give up easily. We see Dujuan disengaged, listless and threatened with the suspension of his family’s welfare payments and his own removal, while on his ancestral Country and in school where he is allowed to learn Arrernte his intelligence and wit soar free. There are moments in the documentary that would trigger your gag reflex, if they weren’t so bloody predictable—the first that comes to mind is Dujuan’s yt teacher chuckling derisively about Spirit, how she doesn’t get it but they’re all gonna believe it, in the same classroom where a textbook that literally looks like the little golden book of imperialism is lauded as information, or non-fiction. Notes to the carceral ‘justice’ system interwoven with Dujuan’s life are especially heartbreaking: Dujuan is 10 and yet has intimate knowledge of the violences of prison through his loved ones, family, friends and community. Dujuan, the incredible talent that he is, penned the headline essay in Overland’s latest ‘Radical’ issue.

This is mandatory watching for all who live on Country. The Take Action page on the film website hosts an amazing list of initiatives to support, including Children’s Ground who are working to establish a First Nations led school in Dujuan’s homelands, Mpweringke Anapipe, in the NT. I just donated $50 to them for the gift of this film (can anybody match me?), though if you don’t have the cash at the moment there are a number of petitions you can sign to stand in solidarity that are well worth the time:

Support Aboriginal kids’ right to education in First Language and Culture

RaiseTheAge of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14

Write to your Attorney General in your state/territory calling on them to raise the age of criminal responsibility using this super easy and helpful email template

Check out this compilation of resources on anti-racism for non-Indigenous people

Host a screening of the documentary for your workplace/organisation or school

Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA)

Julia Tsalis, Program Manager

This isn’t really watching, but I’ve been on leave and, thankfully, didn’t spend much time looking at screens. What a relief that was. In another version of watching (seeing/looking) I had the great pleasure of visiting the Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA). We unexpectedly ending up being in Albury and had some time to look around. Despite having stayed over night in Albury several times on the drive to Melbourne I’d never visited the museum. What a delightful surprise it was. It’s a handsomely designed museum build around the original town hall, with big open spaces that allow for large works and multiple smaller spaces. Due to the virus they didn’t have any touring exhibitions, which meant that they had more of their permanent collection on show. It is an impressive, varied collection of Australian works and very well curated.

The highlight for me was seeing Waradgerie artist Lorraine Connelly-Northay’s stunning On Country sculpture. As you enter the museum the Murray river snakes across the multi-storey foyer wall mapping the path it takes through Albury and Wodonga. The river is made of barbed wire surrounded by pieces found on Lorraine and her mother’s country. It is a breathtaking piece that you can spend a long time looking at and enfolds many layers of meaning. It is a brilliant work and MAMA is to be congratulated for commissioning it.

There are also works by Tracey Moffatt (from her fabulous Something More series), Hany Armarnious, Bill Henson, Michael Riley, Cherine Fahd, and Guy Boyd’s beautiful Olympic Swimmer (so refreshing to see a sculpture of a real unromanticised woman’s body).

Another artist I hadn’t come across before was Bidjara photographer Michael Cook.  There were pieces from his Mother series depicting a woman in an environment where she is bereft of her child. The images include a young Indigenous woman standing behind an empty stroller with a balloon attached, another sitting in front of a swimming pool with a ball in the air but no child. They are beautiful, heartbreaking images. You can see the series here.

Adding to the pleasure of our visit was the fact that we were the only people there when we visited. It’s always special to be in a public space without other people around. The gallery staff was so welcoming and informative, and on any day would add to the experience. I highly recommend going out of your way to visit this impressive collection of Australian art.


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