For my birthday, I watched Sweet Country. It’s a brilliant film: beautifully crafted shots, a clever plot working within the conventions of the thriller, and a superb evocation of 1920s outback Australia. It’s the story of an Aboriginal man, Sam Kelly, who shoots a white man in self-defence and goes on the run. At one point the townspeople are watching a travelling screening of the early silent film The Story of the Kelly Gang, and the parallel is a good one: in Sam Kelly, we have an outlaw we can unequivocally cheer on. The actor who plays him, Hamilton Morris, is brilliant. I love the fact that in 2018 we can finally have a film with a middle-aged Aboriginal hero, wise, quiet, and complicated and so alien to every cliche of Hollywood heroes. I also love this film for the way it made me experience the outback, the heat, the beauty, the harsh life. It made me glad to be Australian. It comes just as I’m re-reading Katharine Prichard’s Coonardoo, published the same time the film is set. The whole film feels like a contemporary reworking of Prichard’s outback ouevre from an Aboriginal perspective. For that and many other reasons I recommend it highly.
I missed Katharine Susannah’s 131st birthday yesterday, although I did spend several hours of it in her company, deciphering her handwriting in her letters to her son, and feeling I was in her company. Thankfully Loredana at Random Phoughts marked it by selecting KSP for her remarkable daily colourisation project. Here is KSP, in colour! (It’s interesting what a distancing effect black and white photographs have. They make me so conscious of the gulf of time that separates me and the subject. Colour reminds us that the people of the past were as alive as we are.)
Day 211 of Colourisation Project – December 4
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
Born this day, 4 December in 1883, Katharine Susannah Prichard was an Australian author, journalist, political activist and co-founding member of the Communist Party of Australia (1920) as well as one of Australia’s greatest novelists and literary figures.
In spite of the strong anti-communist sentiment pervading Australian politics and society before and after the second world war, Prichard remained a committed member of the Communist Party up until her death in 1969. She worked tirelessly organising unemployed workers and writing speeches and articles on behalf of the party. She delivered many public addresses on world peace and socialism, always working tirelessly for the cause. She founded left-wing women’s groups, and during the 1930s she campaigned in support of the Spanish Republic and later for nuclear disarmament.
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