Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Australian filmmaker wins Camera d'Or

Congratulations are due to Warwick Thornton, whose first feature film Samson And Delilah has been awarded the Camera d'Or prize at Cannes. The award is for a first-film by a first-time film director.

El from elswhere has previously reviewed the film and its Extraordinary premiere in Alice Springs at Sars Lite, and I highly recommend it to those who missed her post.

I am somewhat disgruntled, though, that the media keeps referring to Thornton as an Aboriginal filmmaker. I know, and respect the fact, that Warwick Thornton is a proud Aboriginal man, who is strongly connected to his family and community in Alice. But why aren't Australians, and our media, ready to simply celebrate our writers and filmmakers and artists and musicians (and their achievements) as art makers first and foremost, and then, yes, Australian, and, yes, certainly Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander if they are of that background?
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Why are the media reports of his win constantly referring to 'Aboriginal filmmaker Warrick Thornton'? Why not 'Australian filmmaker'? Am I too sensitive in presuming an undercurrent of 'wow, he's managed to win it despite being Aboriginal'?

Is Thornton being Aboriginal the story, or is how good a film Samson and Delilah is the story?

Yet Samson and Delilah is constantly referred to as an Aboriginal film. Surely it is that but more, and everything else besides? Thornton himself considers it a love story first and foremost (and at least The Age picks that up in the headline 'Australian love story wins Cannes prize'), and yes its actors, characters, setting and plot drivers are Aboriginal, but surely this is not a only, or purely, an Aboriginal film?

If anything, the jury at Cannes seems to get it, describing it "as the best love film they had seen for many years."

I don't doubt that Thornton being Aboriginal is important to his approach to and success in the film – possibly securing him access to country, actors, community support, and certainly the context for the story – and it is unlikely that non-Indigenous filmmakers would have had the opportunities and entrepoints to make this project a success (though that is debatable, looking at David Vadiveloo's success with the online film/multimedia production UsMob). I have no doubt that being Aboriginal is important to Thornton, and has informed and coloured his practice as a filmmaker.

But perhaps, first and foremost, Thornton is a very fine filmmaker. And he was won a major prize at Cannes.

You can hear Thornton speaking to the ABC's Lisa Millar (links to audio mp3) about his reaction to his film winning the Camera d'Or and, endearingly, how he's ready to come home from the red carpet glitz of Cannes to reality and sit on his veranda in Alice Springs .

Cross-posted at Sarsaparilla Lite.

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Gumtree blossoms on a cool wet morning

From the train platform on my way to the city this morning. Been too sick to blog, or leave home, til today.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The one about the budget

Instead of twittering away my thoughts and ideas and never get around to committing them to this blog, I'm taking a leaf out of the Blogging Amnesty inspired by Crazybrave and others and getting down my ideas, however short, about the federal Labor government's budget. And I'm going to pinch outrageously from others' thinking to do so. That's the original beauty of blogging, isn't it?

According to The Australia Institute's early budget analysis sent to subscribers of its email newsletter, the budget is 'all sizzle, no sausage'. They pretty much capture my thinking about it where they distill the the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the second Labor budget:
The good: Paid parental leave
The bad: More money for the fossil fuel industry than for the renewable industry
The ugly: Those who missed out—sole parents, the unemployed
I support the paid parental leave, but I want it rolled out sooner.

On the ugly side of the ledger, I'd add that there's no really significant spending to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage. I'm increasingly concerned that 'Close the Gap' is going from being a powerful rallying point for social-justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to being a feature of the Rudd spin-cycle that masks Labor's lack of significant action in addressing Indigenous disadvantage.

In a subscriber only article for Crikey.com (so I can't link to it yet), Jon Altman of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research says:
“This Budget is about maintaining the status quo with the hope that economic recovery will see Indigenous re-engagement with the mainstream. This is a limited vision that might in itself not accord with the aspirations of Indigenous Australians. If the goal is to close the gaps, this approach just will not be enough.”
The other sorry-ass problem with the Rudd/Swan budget is that it fails to invest enough in renewable energy and climate change initiatives – but favours carbon industries and initiatives instead.

As The Australia Institute says:
The new solar flagship program is a scheme designed to establish as many as four solar energy projects generating electricity for the national grid with capacity up to 1,000 megawatts. The budget papers admit that that is merely the equivalent of one coal-fired power station. This project should not be sold as anything other than a modest initiative.
I think that Crikey.com's John Hepburn (the whole article is worth reading) says it a lot harder – and more accurately:
Of course, the decision to give another $2billion to support the coal industry is just a political sop to an industry that has the Government over the barrel.
Is this corporate welfare to the coal industry really worth the giant deficit the government is trying to convince us is needed to secure jobs? Surely we need more green jobs, rather than carbon jobs. What worries me is whether the government is going to have us over the barrel soon.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Backyard bounties

Drooling at Crazybrave's photo of the delicious pomegranates she'd received from a friend has got me thinking of home-grown fruit again, and I am quite envious of people whose fruit trees thrive in their suburban gardens, considering my previous 'mixed' success.

You'd be surprised how much fruit is grown in Melbourne's backyards. Besides the ubiquitous lemon and plum trees, there are also commonly apples, cumquats and nectarines, or, if you're lucky, pears and peaches. Less commonly, you may find pomegranates in their thorny, small-leaved bushes, and, in older houses, that old favourite feijoa (or pineapple quava as some know it).

In neighbourhoods like mine, you'll find older Italian households with persimmon trees. From my kitchen window I can track the progress of my Sicilian neighbour's persimmons. In late autumn–early winter, when all the tree's leaves have fallen (or been assisted to the ground with a stick by my elderly neighbours), I'll be able to marvel at the large fruit hanging in the bare branches, their bright orange glow livening up the dull-grey days.

I marvel at some people's luck at growing trees that bear so much fruit that they have to give it away. Some end up sharing bags of fruit with family, friends, and colleagues, and I miss our family friends who regularly make plum, apricot and other jams and chutneys – because they now live in regional Victoria, we don't get to enjoy their preserves as much as we used to.

This year we missed out on the bags of plums that we previously scored from our neighbour's trees in previous summers. These are actually third-hand plums – branches from trees in the house next to our block of units overhang the back fence of the unit beside ours, and we usually get a bag of fruit when they harvest the overhangs – more if the Sicilian lady next door invites them over to help pick the harvest. Last summer's family crisis and extended stay in Brisbane after my father died meant that we didn't see this bounty, though from reports the weather limited the crop.

I wonder if climate change will continue to play havoc on our cropping trees. Besides the unseasonal frosts, hail, storms and such that have spoiled fruit or blossoms, there are concerns that warming will affect the setting of fruit in trees reliant on the cold to do so, such as apples, pears and stone fruit.

However, I'm trying not to dwell on such grim thoughts. Instead, I'm going in search of opportunities to share in the bounty of other people's fruit trees. I'm going to harvest the abundant sage, rosemary and thyme (sorry, no parsley) and go in search of urban orchards and swap meets –
those wonderfully convivial gatherings where home-growers can swap their surpluses with something else they don't have much or any of. And there's one set up recently near where I work. Although it's getting late in the season, perhaps I'll find a bag or so of something I like.

What fruit are you growing in your back yard? Have you received some surplus bounty from a friend or relative lately?

[Image by Crazybrave, used with permission.]

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Happy Third Birthday Jamie!

It was Jamie's third birthday on Saturday. Jamie is my second child – our baby, but certainly not a baby any more.

It was a lovely day for all of us. We had an afternoon tea party for him (mainly grown-up family, with a couple other kids too) with some afternoon tea food, lots of presents, lollies and chocolate birthday cake. I believe he was quite happy with the day.

One of the presents we gave him is some playdough (or playdoh as the proprietary stuff is called) and all sorts of playdough extrusion and molding implements and he's having heaps of fun with it. He really enjoys playing with the home made stuff, and we thought this would be one of the last chances we could get him something like this where he would enjoy it before he grew out of it. In just only three days, nearly all the bright colours have been mashed together into that sludgy brown-grey, but that hasn't seemed to spoiled his enjoyment of the stuff.

My sister came down from Brisbane for the weekend and it was great to have her with us, especially for Jamie's birthday. And that's not only because she rescue me from getting stuck with the chocolate cake recipe my mum had given me over the phone. I think it helped that my sister had done that recipe before, whereas I hadn't! Honestly, it was a relief, and kind of nice to have my big sister there to boss me around again – for a bit.

Jamie had asked for a chocolate cake for his birthday, but it was hard to tell if he really enjoyed it. Perhaps he was too full from all the other party food. It's hard to find a nice, though simple, choc cake recipe that kids will also like. I may have another go at this one and see if it he takes to it at some other time. If you have any ideas for a good kid-friendly chocolate cake recipe, do let me know.

The photo above is from a couple of weekends back - not his birthday. I still haven't uploaded the birthday party photos to flickr, but when I do I'll be back here to update with the photos so stay tuned.

But from the photo you can get an idea of his cheeky, vibrant, fun-loving character. He is a really sweet-natured child, caring, loving, generous and sharing, and usually full of cuddles and hugs, though of late he has been developing his independence and learning to identify himself discretely from us, his parents. And his big brother! I think you can imagine what that can be like. Happy Birthday Jamie! We love you very much!

I have been remiss in keeping my blogging up to date, so I hope this little news will explain one of the reasons I've been so busy, despite there being so much news to share. I hope things get better on the blogging front soon. Bear with me.

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