Bran Nue Day (2009)

This has been on ABC TV several times but each time I missed it – until last night. Loved it.


Review by David Stratton

And now to end on something uplifting – it is the festive season after all! So that brings us to BRAN NUE DAE…
Willie, ROCKY MACKENZIE, who lives in Broome, loves beautiful Rosie, JESSICA MAUBOY, but can’t bring himself to approach her. Willie’s mother sends him off to a boarding school in Perth run by strict Father Benedictus, GEOFFREY RUSH – but Willie runs away and heads for home accompanied by his uncle, ERNIE DINGO.
Rachel Perkins’ exuberant adaptation of the 1990 stage musical is a lot of fun, despite the fact that it has a rather insipid hero. The energetic staging of the musical numbers is just one of the engaging elements in a film filled with unexpected delights, such as the performances of MISSY HIGGINS and DEBORAH MAILMAN, who are both excellent.
GEOFFREY RUSH is very funny indeed, the pacing is brisk and it all looks terrific.
BRAN NUE DAY represents a really enjoyable visit to the movies this summer…

DAVID: I loved the musical numbers.
MARGARET: It takes a lot to make a musical these days.
MARGARET: And I think Rachael Perkins has done a fabulous job.
DAVID: I think so too. Yes, I agree.
MARGARET: I’m giving this four stars.
DAVID: Yes, me too, four stars.

It is worth reading the comments on The Movie Show site. One person found the movie racist! I am sure Jimmy Chi, Rachael Perkins et al would be quite surprised. There are people with no sense of humour out there, of course. Not that Bran Nue Dae is all laughs, as my YouTube selection shows. And sometimes the satire cuts several ways:

One of the famous verses from a song in the musical sums up Chi’s dry humour and sharp political approach:

There’s nothing I would rather be
Than to be an Aborigine
and watch you take my precious land away.
For nothing gives me greater joy
than to watch you fill each girl and boy
with superficial existential shit.

See also Bran Nue Dae.


1. Following the success of Bran Nue Dae, Rachel Perkins and Blackfella Films  have gone on to make some really splendid movies and documentaries and, of course, the series Redfern Now. Meanwhile, many of the people in Bran Nue Dae may also be seen in 2012’s very successful The Sapphires, directed by Wayne Blair. Indigenous stories and voices really are being seen and heard! I notice however that too many TV Guides, including The Australian Review for 22 December, still hide the existence of NITV!

2. Cinematography on Bran Nue Day was by Andrew Lesnie – brilliant.

His work began receiving major attention after the release of the anthropomorphic pig story Babe (1995) and its sequel, Babe: Pig in the City. He was director of photography on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and received an Oscar for his work on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in 2002. Since then, he has filmed several other Jackson-directed films, including King Kong and The Lovely Bones, and will also film the upcoming The Hobbit films directed by Jackson.

Wikipedia needs to update that last line!

Andrew Lesnie’s son Phillip Lesnie is carving out a career in the arts. I did teach him briefly at SBHS. See Rani P Lukita and Phil Lesnie – Sydney artists / Hand to Hand and his site Monster Friendship Society.

Takes my mind back to the beginning of the century, via this quote from the 2000 SBHS Annual Report. There’s a  name there that is now well known in Indigenous circles too.

Achievements in the Arts

The  school  has  a  very  strong  emphasis  on co-curricular  activities,  particularly  musical  and  choral performance  and debating.
•  The double  in debating  – GPS  Roat Shield  and State Hume Barbour Shield – was achieved. The firsts  (Oscar  McLaren,  Hilbert  Chiu,  Robbie Moore and Mike Martin) were undefeated.
•  Eugene  Schofield-Georgeson,  Jonathan Ailwood,  Morgan  Green  – Art  Express finalists.
•  Jack  Manning-Bancroft  and  Mihai  Sora participated  in  the  English  Teachers Conference.
•  Michael  Nelson,  Jason  Kok  and  Thomas Norrie were chosen to  play in the NSW Public Schools  Symphony Orchestra.
•  Robbie  Moore’s  play  ‘Wolves’  was  accepted for a reading by a theatre group.
•  Phillip  Lesnie  won  the  Sydney  Theatre Company’s ‘Young Playwrights Award’.
•  Peter  Hayward,  Justin  Hill  and  Thomas Beamish sang at the opening ceremonies at the Olympic  Games,  the  Paralympic  Games  and the Pacific Schools Games.

Is this our planet?

Often seems as if it is…


Thanks to my friend Philip Costello in New York – and formerly of Chippendale, Redfern and Surry Hills – for posting this on Facebook a little while back. In 1939 when that cover was printed the word probably hadn’t yet acquired its current meaning – in the UK and Australia for sure, but I am not sure if it is used in the USA even if that is where so many of them seem to live.

It has appeared in print in the quality Australian Press:


He’s a knobhead sometimes but I have always gotten on with him. He has a weird, egocentric way about him and he’s a dick in a bad mood but I tell him to get f—ed. [But] you can talk to him. You can have a joke…

Not always a knobhead but surrounded by them is Malcolm Turnbull whose recent address in Perth was to my mind perfectly reasonable. His colleagues should take it to heart, as indeed should those on the government side. Not relating to Turnbull’s speech but to another matter, Jim Belshaw’s latest post said this:

I don’t have a general answer. I don’t think that we are going to stop it through laws, protocols or codes of conduct. I don’t think that we should try to stop people expressing very strong views that we find distasteful in private. That’s their right. I do think that we should demand respect and manners in public discourse, that we should call those who do not display them.

I also suggest that we start at the top, with the political leadership and the commentariat. The next time a commentator calls the PM or opposition leader dismissively by their surname, object. The next time a commentator refers to you dismissively as the punters, object. The next time Treasurer Swan or PM Gillard or Mr Abbott play the game, object. I know that this probably sounds a bit silly and futile, but groups exercise their control in this way. And Australia is just a big group. 

In his speech Malcolm Turnbull said:


In the crowded and chaotic arena of public life, it was hard to have a rational and informed debate about the republic back then. It‟s even harder now.

There is almost nothing more important to good government and our nation‟s future than the quality, honesty and clarity of political discourse: how we explain policy challenges and trade-offs, and educate voters about the constraints we have to work within…how we express our position, our basis for reaching it and why it differs from that of our opponents if this is the case…how we communicate changes in policy and their implications.

Yet paradoxically, there is almost nowhere else in our national life where the incentives to be untruthful or to purposefully mislead are so great, and the adverse consequences of such behaviour so modest.

As Michelle Grattan says he is “entirely spot on” but “prescribing solutions is much more difficult.”

Sometimes I wish they would all just grow up! Knobheads!

Found an old Nicholson cartoon of a former waspish occupant of a high chair in Canberra:


Not entirely relevant, but I like it.

Freebies again–and pretty good they are too

No relation. Well, given that the Whitfields I spring from seem to have left England in the 17th century…

Handsome chap though.



See the reviews.

Here is my new-found English cousin on The Sexist, Racist & Homophobic Comedian:

Have you heard the one about the non-heterosexual gentleman from Pakistan and his mixed race, differently-abled mother-in-law?”

I haven’t used the same vernacular as the old school comedian would have done, but I think you can do the reverse translation yourself. These comedians offered a brand of comedy drenched in misogyny and xenophobia, which to their less than educated minds were two small Greek Islands frequented by the holidaying Princess Margaret and her ‘gardener’, Roddy Llewellyn.

The late Bernard Manning was a good case in point. Here was a comic with brilliant timing and delivery, a natural funny man, but whose material was mined from the depths of prejudice and small mindedness. If he had used his undoubted talents to turn the comedy back on to himself, who knows, he might have been a national treasure. Well, maybe not a national treasure, more a national three-penny bit found on Southport beach by a geek with a metal detector, but he wouldn’t have been as reviled as he became.

To be fair, it’s easy to sit in judgement by taking current socially accepted values and applying them retrospectively to a time when there was less tolerance and understanding. Indeed, in the era when this brand of humour was at its peak, homosexuality had not long been legalised, sexual discrimination was not unlawful, and racial bigotry was endemic. It was little wonder that the humorous machinations of a few bawdy comedians were not judged to be overstepping the mark.

But as the generations replenished one another, and society became more open-minded and inclusive, these comedians found themselves out of step with large swathes of public opinion. Unable to change with the times, their material became polarised and more extreme as a consequence. Misinterpreting the new mood as ‘political correctness gone mad’, their place in the mainstream was taken by the new breed of alternative comedian, and the old racist, sexist and homophobic comic was relegated to the sidelines forever, retreating back to the social clubs and out of the public consciousness.

We now live in an age where we don’t laugh at someone’s sexual orientation, race or gender; we look at the differences and laugh at them, so that we are all laughing together. Even so, humour will always have the power to offend and that’s probably a healthy thing. I’ve certainly lived a life where I’ve put that strategy into everyday practice with a metronomic regularity.

There are plenty of boring people in the world, carrying a permanent visage as if somebody has just stuck a wasp up their arse, and these individuals need to be occasionally shaken from their miserable dispositions. Hopefully, if you have inadvertently used a wasp’s nest as a cushion, this book will have helped.

Even if you’ve remained po-faced as you’ve read these pages, I will take some literal consolation from your inferred opinion that this book is one big joke.

He has also written Balls: “An irreverent and informative look at the history of the sixteen football teams that played at the 2012 Euros. It is a journey across Europe and the World that takes in the sights of glory, humiliation, politics, war, visionaries, parochialism, corruption, gamesmanship and pies. If you like football, you will love this book. It is complete and utter Balls!”

In both I become aware at times that I am after all NOT English, but there is enough left over in both books – more than most of both in fact – that I can relate to here in Oz, and time and again I laughed out loud.

Now to Canada and Lenny Everson, poet and novelist. Mount Moriah had me in stitches at times.

The few who listened to Copeman were too young to influence the seniors who chummed with politicians and who had one eye on their pensions. These guys lived in the certainty that if anything like a bombing happened, they could fire some of the young agents (or Copeman, who wasn’t young but should have been) for not warning the administrators more clearly and forcefully.

There had been agents who had predicted acts of terror and who had been clear and forceful. But then, if the act hadn’t happened, even if because the police had headed it off after a hint or two, the agent who had done the prediction was forever a wolf-crier who would be the subject of derision and chuckling sarcasm at department meetings ever afterwards.

Which described the fix Copeman had got himself into. He’d connected a Saudi of middle-class heritage with a group of mad mullahs, and had followed the lead right to a pile of dynamite and a backpack. But the connection wasn’t provable in court, it turned out, and although the police had moved in a day before the backpack was to generate a bus station full of shredded Canadian flesh, that saved a few lives, but it didn’t get anybody convicted. A few people had taken a hint and decamped for their mideast homelands, and Copeman became a guy who predicted a bombing that didn’t happen.

Which is why he was in a small, windowless room, which he shared with the department’s Gestetner machine. Only the fact that nobody used the Gestetner any more kept Copeman’s sanity. And the fact that he had a cheerful apartment overlooking the Rideau Canal to go home to. That and his collection of leaves.

Copeman collected leaves and conifer needles as a hobby, and it had kept him from going round the bend when his girlfriend had become a friend of a politician in Ottawa, spending more bed time in the back of the parliamentary block than in Copeman’s place. Maybe she had a fondness for guys with two legs.

So he spent his days now chasing down bad leads and bugging every mosque in Ontario. Which was a topic of endless meetings and updates for his bosses, this being a sensitive project politically.

He also handled information and payments to five different people who were willing to keep track on their Muslim brethren for a weekly payment. Or at least they said they were trying to keep crazy people from tarnishing the name of Islam. He suspected that at least one wasn’t delivering, but it was hard to be sure of which one. They all gave reports that sounded the same: a few annoyed people but no one about to blow things up.

Copeman knew that was possible, but the Americans were sure that someone, somewhere, was planning to teach Canada a lesson. A loud lesson. And humoring the Americans was essential.

Anybody with half a brain could figure that the security service had undercover contacts all over the place and had microphones anywhere two people might gather to bow towards Mecca.

He’d got onto the Dayton Block only because Haski, the tailor from Yemen, had attracted the attention of the CIA and military intelligence. With the destruction of Haski’s cousin by the CIA (via the drone aircraft), the CIA either had to admit someone had made a mistake, or they had to make sure Haski’s cousin was covered with suspicion. Option B seemed the best bet, and had become as standard with the CIA as it had with the NKVD in the old Soviet Union.

Knowing, as they did, that Haski’s cousin had just borrowed the wrong car to drive into town, they weren’t really concerned about Haski, but procedures had to be followed. So, for the first time, they followed procedures, asking CSIS to investigate Haski.

Copeman’s bosses knew about CIA cover-your-ass operations, so they assigned the investigation to Copeman. He was wise enough to see through that, but he’d just learned from a contact that Aklif, the owner of Corner Convenience, was from Afghanistan and might be an object of suspicion. Actually, Aklif had nothing more explosive in his shop than a dropped Pepsi can, but two Muslims in one building constituted an item to be investigated.

He knew nothing about the two brothers upstairs from Aklif, nothing about the alien in the back apartment, and nothing yet about Poe the poet or Agnew the agnostic. He had much to learn.

He set off for Waterloo on the 15th of March, to see if he could make up a report that would keep him employed for a few months more.

Finally, an Australian writer: Colin Falconer.


Full of really interesting items, but my Kobo Reader gives up on it after page 48 for some reason. No problem with Calibre on the computer though.

Everything you’ve ever heard about Mexico City is true. The city contains roughly the same population as the whole of Australia and twice as many cars as people. They say that one day walking in the streets of El DF is equivalent to smoking a pack of forty cigarettes.

I was there for a week a few years back to promote a book I had written about the conquest of Mexico. I had not read the book myself on anything except my laptop and the Australian edition was still in editing. So it was slightly surreal to fly halfway across the world and discover it has been a bestseller in another country for weeks.

The central figure of my story was a Mayan princess called Malinali (better known in the west as Malinche), Hernan Cortes’ lover during his ‘entrada’ in the early sixteenth century. My book speculated about her life, her motives, her role in the defeat of the Aztecs and most especially, the precise nature of her relationship with the great conquistador.

Well. You wouldn’t think the Mexicans would care anymore, would you? The woman has been dead for half a millennium and her name is almost unknown outside of Mexico.

But they do care; they care a lot. It was why almost every newspaper and magazine in the city wanted to talk to me.

They care so much, in fact, that at times I was being interviewed by three journalists at a time because there was not enough time to schedule everyone. Not all of the journalists liked the book; halfway through one interview a journalist threw his manbag at me and said he was offended by my interpretation of Malinche, a woman he and many Mexicans regard as a traitor of the first rank. She is responsible for selling out Mexico and consigning her nation to catastrophe and slavery, he said. Well, perhaps. But there’s two sides to every story.

Finally he stormed out of the office.

I didn’t read the review but I got the impression that I wouldn’t be able to use any quotes on the cover of the reprint.


The joys of spam and/or self-abuse

Before I delete it, let me share this gem of a comment.

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Such insight! Such relevance! Rarely has a bot spoken so exquisitely!

And speaking of handling it up, one of my favourite 21st century words is fap.


It has such potential for word-formation. Fapulous! Fapolescent. You exercise your ingenuity.

I am rather attracted to faptivism to describe compulsive activism and pursuance of fashionable causes…



Hey hang on right there! We can’t have things like that on this blog!


That’s better!

Funny isn’t always nice, is it?

Though it may be. Or not… I was taken back by last night’s episode of Wide Open Road to Bob Hudson’s “Newcastle Song”:

Great stuff.

Tonight SBS starts its brand new comedy series Housos. One person on YouTube notes it is “a typical day in Wollongong” and others have filled in the blank according to their city.

Housos is the story of Shazza, Dazza, Franky and Kylie – best mates from "the block". Sure, they drink away their problems, they might even have frequent domestic disputes and the occasional altercation with their neighbours, but down on the block it’s all for one and one for all.

Housos follows the riotously funny, day-to-day adventures of the residents of a fictional housing commission block – Sunnyvale. They battle the cops, they scam Centrelink, they even have the odd threesome, but once down with the crew in the hood then it is "Sunnyvale for life".

To be a houso means that life is far from easy; ambulances avoid their suburbs because kids throw rocks at them, dad owes thousands to the local bikies and the de facto needs bail money . . . again. Much of a houso’s time is spent working hard to avoid actual work!

I like the idea of it, and have to say one doesn’t really have to look very far – even right under my nose here at The Bates Motel would do at times – to see what Fenech and company are getting at.

Negative stories about the new SBS comedy Housos on commercial current affair programs have been the best free publicity possible, says the show’s creator and star Paul Fenech.

Fenech, who also created and starred in Fat Pizza and Swift and Shift Couriers for the broadcaster, says stories by A Current Affair and Today Tonight earlier this year have created more interest in his latest comedy.

"It was great publicity so thank you to the stooges," he said. "But it’s a pity that a joke in Australia can now become a political football."

In fact Fenech, who plays Franky in the series based around a fictional housing commission block, says his latest provocative show represents a large, and mostly ignored, section of the Australian community.

"There are so many bogans in Australia a show had to be made about them," he says."It wasn’t just an idea, the total bogan movement of Australia demanded a show be made about them so I gave it to them. For me I like to root for the underdog no matter what. I’ve got more friends who are like characters in Housos than further up the chain. A lot of the actors are my friends and some of them are playing characters that are not far from themselves."

Fenech is concerned that a growing atmosphere of political correctness in Australia will destroy our local humour.

"We’re just becoming a crazy, over-regulated, over-controlled society and now that’s creeping into comedy and it’s sad," he says, offering this suggestion to anyone who thinks they may be offended by his show: "If you don’t like the show don’t watch it and don’t whinge about it…


Back in the dim distant past again:


Oh Lordie, Lordie! I am posting from Carbon Central NSW and the sky…

… is still there.

Indeed The Illawarra Mercury leads today with a far more exciting story.


The carbon tax did feature a few days back, as an incidental:



Last night The Hamster Wheel captured just how stupid, how marred by overheated brains – or total lack of brains – this whole “debate” became and how thoroughly sick of it we all were by now.

No, the sky hasn’t fallen in down here at Carbon Central, and it probably won’t any time soon.