Baz Lurhman’s Australia was a long film. Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge had us all tuned into some really good entertaining treatment of two love stories. Here in Australia, the length of the film gets multiplied by the sheer lack of entertaining features (as I was wont to expect from a Baz Luhrman film). Instead, it was a three hour long saga that had various plot elements that seemed to be a recreation of Gone With The Wind. It was all there – 

  1. Large property in the outback
  2. Lady of the house comes into ownership due to sudden events (death of her husband)
  3. Racism
  4. War
  5. Love between two strangers
  6. Brave rescues
  7. Redemption
  8. Reunion (This wasn’t there in Gone With The Wind)

There were a few things about the film that seemed to be truly good – the Aborigine kid actor Brandon Walters who acts as Nullah; the cinematography by Australian Mandy Walker and a couple of neat scenes. 

As a history buff, there were two points of interest in this film – The Stolen Generation and The Japanese Raids on Darwin during the Second World War.

The Stolen Generation

The Stolen Generation has been a cause of much repentence amongst most Australians over the last many years. Between 1869 and 1969, Aboriginal (or Indigenous Australians or Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Island Peoples) children were forcibly taken away from their parents and raised in missionaries or charities or as foster-children in white families. They were kept here till the age of 18 after which they were returned to their original families. There was three main rationale behind these programmes (mandated by laws passed by the Australian Federal and State parliaments)

  1. Child Protection – it was believed that children would be best taken care off by the state in order to protect them from disease
  2. Preventing extinction of the race – with population of the indigenous Australians declining, it was felt that by raising the children by the state, they would be more healthy and hence more capable of development
  3. Protecting white race purity – this was a third view point which had a minority support group.

Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic torch at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Cathy, an Aboriginal Australian, was the grandchild of one such Stolen child. Midnight Oil, the cult Aussie band, demonstrated the national regret when they performed at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games wearing black sweatshirts with the word “Sorry”. 

There was of course a national apology by the Australian PM Kevin Rudd and an unanimous resolution by the Federal Parliament.

Japanese raids on Darwin

The next big point of interest is the advent of Second World War in Australia. This was the raid on Darwin by Japanese bombers on February 19, 1942. Called the Pearl Harbour of Australia, this raid in two waves attacked Australia at its weakest and most vulnerable point – completely underprepared and underequipped.

It remains the biggest attack on Australian soil though Japan never really occupied any Australian territory (in the main continent). The raids were executed by a combination of the Kate torpedo bombers and the Val dive bombers escorted by Zero fighters. The second wave was executed by Nell and Betty land-based bombers.

Naval commander Mitsui Fuchida who led the first wave later in his memoirs writes that it was a significant waste of time as there was nothing of any value at Darwin – a small port installation, an even smaller airfield with minimal facilities. 

Closing up on the movie – well, a movie buff is a movie buff – so one can watch it. And the movie will definitely do well in the awards marquees across the world. The only issue – its a big too heavy on the sugar and teary stuff.

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