• Jess Hill (left) has curated an engrossing collection of movies. (SBS On Demand)Source: SBS On Demand
The investigative journalist and presenter of 'See What You Made Me Do' gives us insight into the series, and shares her list of SBS On Demand favourites.
By
SBS Guide

14 May 2021 - 12:34 PM  UPDATED 17 May 2021 - 11:39 AM

Investigative journalist Jess Hill has spent the best part of the last decade shining a light on the misunderstood crisis of domestic abuse in Australia. Her essential book on the subject, See What You Made Me Do, is now a major SBS documentary series, and is provoking long overdue conversations across the country, as part of Hill’s ongoing effort to shift the narrative towards addressing the underlying behaviours.  

Importantly, the title emphasises that behaviour, and Hill credits a Facebook group with friends for helping her arrive at the memorable, provocative phrase (it was a subtle change to an original suggestion of ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, when that sounded too similar to a song title).

“It puts the perpetrator’s words right upfront, and it immediately shifts the frame, so that we’re inside the perpetrator’s head, right from the get-go. And that’s where I think we need to be more.” 

Hill says that the series adaptation “is not supposed to be a repeat of the book” but rather it enables viewers to experience the first-hand testimonies of victim-survivors, and support and security personnel: “We land people in the scenes at the moment, if at all possible. You can’t be inside the house when it’s happening, but you can be inside the call centres and you can be inside the safe room at the shopping centre where there’s a woman talking about how she’s going to leave her incredibly controlling husband. You can be out with police, you know, and we just happen to have people who have lived experience, and who have incredible insight into the concept of ‘coercive control’, who can unpack it in a way that you viscerally understand.” 

Across the three-part series, Hill examines proactive strategies that “confront the fact that this is the number one threat to public safety.” It’s a hopeful arc that requires buy-in from society and authorities alike.

“If we keep treating it like a niche issue, we won’t change it. It’s not about, ‘Does it take to get a little bit extra funding?’ It’s about, ‘Are you going to look at this as a whole-of-society issue that is really corroding the very fabric of our society and are you going to commit to fixing it?’”

For more: SBS has produced a range of articles and programs devoted to unpacking the issues of domestic abuse and coercive control, including a list of support services and essential resources across communities.  

As someone whose work is so deeply involved in such an urgent and traumatic issue, and in constant contact with victim-survivors and perpetrators, Hill concedes that the notion of ‘self-care’ is important, but is always challenging.  

“I used to feel really guilty and I didn’t switch off for about four years,” she says. “In my dreams, I was trying to work all of this out, and I’d wake up and it would be the first thing I’d think about, and it would be the last thing I thought about before I went to sleep. But that’s not sustainable and this is a marathon, not a sprint. 

“Do I do enough self-care? No, I’ve got a three-year-old. I do caring, but it’s just not for me! So I’m definitely not good enough at that yet. I’m not, I don’t really operate sustainably yet, but I’m much closer than I was three years ago.”

Even in her movie choices, Hill is not one to ‘switch off’ and escape, as evident in the selection of movies she has curated for SBS On Demand this month. True to form, she has singled out thoughtful dramas with global themes, which interrogate ideas of human behaviour and what it means to be decent.  

“When I'm looking for a movie to watch, I’m not just looking for an escape; I want something that will challenge my world view,” Hill says, “and get me thinking about things in a new way.

“Every film in this collection did just that but especially Tanna, which is the transformative and transcendent love story from Vanuatu. And Far From Men, set during the Algerian War of Independence. It’s an adaptation of a story by the philosopher Albert Camus, who interrogated, essentially, ‘How do you be a decent person in an indecent world?’ 

“That is still a question for our time.”

 

Far from Men 

M
France, 2015
Genre: Drama
Language: French, Spanish, Arabic
Director: David Oelhoffen
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Martin
What's it about?
At the start of the Algerian War, a French teacher Daru (Viggo Mortensen) is ordered to escort a dissident, Mohamed (Reda Kateb), to the authorities to face trial for murder. The two form a bond that forces Daru to question where his loyalties lie.

Far From Men review: Algerian war told powerfully through quiet intensity
Far From Men's David Oelhoffen and Warren Ellis on Viggo Mortensen, displacement, and scoring westerns with Nick Cave

 

 

Tanna

Australia, Vanuatu, 2015
Genre: Romance, Drama
Language: Bislama
Director: Bentley Dean, Martin Butler
Starring: Mungau Dain, Marie Wawa, Marceline Rofit, Kapan Cook, Charlie Kahla, Lingai Kowia, Dadwa Mungau, Albi Nagia
What's it about?
Tanna brings a fresh angle to the classic forbidden lovers fable, in framing it within one of the last traditional tribes in the South Pacific. Two would-be lovebirds defy a tribal edict, and risk it all with a dramatic break with custom. They're forced to choose between their hearts and the future of the community, which is in the midst of an existential crisis. Preserve traditional culture or adapt to the changing world and permit individual freedom? 

Tanna is based on a true story and performed by the people of Yakel, who worked with Australian documentary filmmakers Martin Butler and Bentley Dean to adapt the local story to the screen. The collaboration took Tanna and its stars, Marie Wawa and the late Mungau Dain, to the world’s festivals and all the way to the Oscars red carpet, where the film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. 

 

99 Homes

MA
United States of America, 2014
Genre: Drama
Language: English
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Starring: Clancy Brown, Laura Dern, Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, David Maldonado, J.D. Evermore, Liann Pattison, Tim Guinee, Patrick Kearns, Richard Holden, Luke Sexton
What's it about?
Hard-working single father Dennis Nash and his mother are cruelly evicted from their home. Desperate to get his house back, Nash goes to work for the wealthy and ruthless businessman Rick Carver – the very man who repossessed Nash’s home. It’s a deal with the devil that comes with an increasingly high cost – on Carver’s orders, Nash must evict families from their homes; in return, Nash is promised a lifestyle of wealth and glamour. As Nash falls deeper into Carver’s web, he finds his situation grows more brutal and dangerous than he ever imagined.

99 Homes review: A fiery parable of income inequality
Michael Shannon talks '99 Homes', deals with the Devil, and why he's never owned a house (interview)
'99 Homes' is perfect viewing if you're mad at the banks

 

American Animals

MA15+
United States of America, United Kingdom, 2018
Genre: Drama, Crime, Documentary
Language: Dutch, English
Director: Bart Layton
Starring: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Ann Dowd, Gary Basaraba, Lara Grice
What's it about?
American Animals is the extraordinary and thrilling true story of four friends who brazenly attempt to execute one of the most audacious art heists in US history.

How Bart Layton combines truth and fiction in the real-life heist film 'American Animals'

 

 

Good Vibrations

MA15+
United Kingdom, Ireland, 2013
Genre: Music, Drama, Biography
Language: English
Director: Glenn Leyburn, Lisa Barros D’Sa
Starring: Dylan Moran, Liam Cunningham, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Simpson
What's it about?
1970s Belfast, the perfect time to open a record store, or so Terri Hooley thinks. Attempting to melt some icy hearts with warm island reggae, Terri discovers his store is instead ‘instrumental’ in starting a punk rock movement that might just bridge his land’s religious and social rivalries.

Good Vibrations Review
Good Vibrations: Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn interview

 

Lebanon

MA15+
United Kingdom, 2009
Genre: Drama, War
Language: Hebrew, Arabic, French
Director: Samuel Maoz
Starring: Oshri Cohen, Itay Tiran, Michael Moshonov
What's it about?
This brilliant drama, set almost entirely within the confines of a tank, is every bit as brutal and shocking as The Hurt Locker. Set in 1982, during the First Lebanon War, the action follows a lone tank and a paratrooper platoon dispatched to search a hostile town – a simple mission that turns into a nightmare. The four members of a tank crew are sitting ducks, stuck in a violent situation that they cannot contain. Motivated by fear and the basic instinct of survival, they desperately try not to lose themselves in the chaos of war.

Lebanon Review

 

 

The Lobster

MA15+
United Kingdom, 2015
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Science Fiction
Language: English
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw
What's it about?
A love story set in a dystopian near future where single people are arrested and transferred to a creepy hotel. There they are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal and released into the woods.

Watch Colin Farrell have 45 days to find a lover or be turned into an animal in 'The Lobster' trailer
The Lobster review: An achingly dystopian rom-com

 

Watch See What You Made Me Do at SBS On Demand. The final episode premieres on SBS and On Demand Thursday 20 May. 

Watch this first:

If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence or sexual assault phone 1800RESPECT/1800 737 732 or visit 1800respect.org.au. For counselling, advice and support for men who have anger, relationship or parenting issues, call the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or visit ntv.org.au.

 

Jess Hill interview by Fiona Williams.