Black and White
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
one man's conviction changed a nation Based on true events, this deeply involving film is not only a terrific story but it's also very timely in the issues it examines. In late 1958 in South Australia, a 9-year-old girl was brutally raped and murdered. The local cops went straight for an Aboriginal man (Ngoombujarra) and railroaded him through the system, even though he was illiterate and had a fairly tenuous grasp of English. His lawyers (Carlyle and Fox) didn't stand a chance up against the high-powered prosecutor (Dance). Over the next year they continue with a series of appeals, taking the case ever higher and attracting the support of young newspaper owner Rupert Murdoch (Mendelsohn), who rather irresponsibly stirs up public opinion but actually gives justice a chance in the process.

Lahiff's film is beautifully assembled to tell the story clearly and fairly. It grabs hold of us from the very beginning as we see a judicial system so clearly weighed in favour of the privileged classes, and of course our sympathies go immediately to the underdog. But the film is careful to present all sides of the story without passing judgement. It's basically a tale of the outsider--the native man who has no family, the lawyers who are up against the system, the priest (Friels) who disobeys his bishop to help, the newspaper owner standing in the face of the local police detective (Billing), and so on. The film does lack a certain level of subtlety; it paints all the characters far too starkly. Just a few shades of grey would have helped make, for instance, Dance's smug elitist snob even vaguely human! He comes across as a bull-headed, almost cartoonish villain, as do the deeply racist cops. While the excellent Carlyle and Fox are rather hapless heroes. Still, there's a clever twist in perspective at the end that makes the final epilogue somewhat unnerving. This is a great story nicely told.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 20.Nov.02 lff

dir Craig Lahiff
scr Louis Nowra
with Robert Carlyle, Kerry Fox, Charles Dance, David Ngoombujarra, Ben Mendelsohn, Colin Friels, Roy Billing, Bille Brown, John Gregg, Heather Mitchell, Petru Gheorghiu, Max Stuart
release UK 9.Jan.04
02/Australia 1h39

If you say so. The cops, led by Det Turner (Billing), beat a confession out of Max (Ngoombujarra)...


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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall