Details: (M), 95 mins, Australia, English
Synopsis: Prospect Bay is a poor fishing village in South Australia, where Gary ‘Blacky’ Black (Nathan Phillips) is an unremarkable 16 year old in a battling family of four siblings. He is also part of the local Australian Rules football team – albeit not its star player. His best friends are the edgy and very white Pickles (Tom Budge) and Dumby Red (Luke Carroll), a charismatic Aboriginal kid with a lovely sister, Clarence (Lisa Flanagan), whose affections Blacky slowly earns. The racially divided town comes together on the football field, since the Aboriginal players make up half the team. Blacky’s mum (Celia Ireland) offers some winning tips, but success at footy, however hard won, does not equate to success at home, as Blacky’s racist, abusive father, Bob (Simon Westaway), demonstrates in a moment of drunken violence that impacts on the whole community.
The film starts a bit awkwardly, but once the plot kicks in, the film impresses.
In Prospect Flat, a small South Australian town by the sea, they take their footy seriously. Gary Black, called Blackie of course, and played by Nathan Phillips, is on the team, and so is his aboriginal mate, Dumby Red (Luke Carroll), the star player. Dumby and his family live outside town, in the Mission Settlement, and the locals don't encourage them to mix. Blackie's father, Bob (Simon Westaway) is unashamedly racist, but Blackie is drawn to Clarence (Lisa Flanagan), Dumby's sister. Blackie's got problems at home too. He's caught in a squeeze everywhere he turns.
Australian Rules is based on the novel, Deadly, Unna?, by Phillip Gwynne, who wrote the screenplay in collaboration with director Paul Goldman. It's a story you feel is told from the heart, an insider's view of the racism and intolerance that, to our shame, lingers on in some communities, pitting Australian against Australian. The film starts a bit awkwardly, and despite a good performance from Kevin Harrington as the coach, the football scenes are dull; there's also a tentativeness in capturing the small-town atmosphere. But, once the plot kicks in, the film impresses, and a funeral sequence towards the end is tremendously moving. Some of the performances are a bit over-pitched, while others, including the three young leads, are spot on. In the end, this is a strong plea for tolerance and reconciliation.
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