Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Black and White

2002, Australia/UK, directed by Craig Lahiff

Black and White
recreates the murder trial of a young Aboriginal man, Rupert Max Stuart, who was convicted, in dubious circumstances, of the murder of a young girl in 1958. His incarceration and particularly the subsequent appeals on his behalf through the Australian court system and the House of Lords in London, created a divisive public debate that shone a light on Australia's tragic racial history (the film focuses on a period when elements of the now notorious "White Australia" policies - which affected immigration rather than relations with the Aboriginal community - remained in place).

Given the weighty themes, it's unfortunate that director Craig Lahiff can't craft a more compelling narrative from the raw materials: the pacing is uncertain, and the script sometimes rather obvious. Robert Carlyle seems miscast as Stuart's main lawyer; there's little convincing fire in his performance, which makes it hard to accept his decision to pursue the case as far as he does (by contrast, David Ngoombujarra is much stronger as Max). The film does come alive, though, with the appearance of a youthful Rupert Murdoch, whose Adelaide newspaper threw its weight behind Max (not on the issue of his guilt - even the film seems ambiguous on that front - but rather on the legitimacy of his confession and trial); while Murdoch's role is undoubtedly overstated, his arrival supplies a much-needed jolt.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States