When Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (1981) was shown to me, I was a mere five year old girl, watching for two important reasons. The first being that I am a half-caste Maori, with a Maori father and an Australian mother, and roots connecting back to the ANZACs and the tragic unfolding that happened in Gallipoli in 1915. The second being, because my grandmother Merekaraka Tipoki-Caesar played a small, but identifiable role in the film. A madam in Cairo, telling Frank (Mel Gibson), Jack (Bill Kerr), Snowy (David Argue) and Billy (Robert Grubb) that her women were clear of sexually transmitted diseases as they are passing through, about to pay for sexual acts the night before they are sent out to battle. Filmed in Adelaide, my Grandmother made friends with Peter Weir, and originally took her dance group of young Maori women to be extras in this scene – but upon arrival, Weir had decided he was to place her in the scene. A fun fact – My Uncle Tane (Caesar), was also taken to set, where he would also be in this scene and Weir would ask him and some of the young Maori men to perform a Haka, which he filmed and intended to place in the film. It was later cut. Gallipoli (1981), not only helped form my sense of national identity, but Australia’s as a whole – as it launches the Australian film industry to whole new heights, putting Australia on the map as serious filmmakers.
“Film plays a crucial role in the formation of national identity, and an equally important part in providing interpretations of history… Nations often identify themselves by glorifying key moments in their history, and film and television interpretations then bring these events to life in a more immediate way than any other form of communication. Peter Weir’s Gallipoli is a film about an historical event that played a key role in shaping Australia’s perception of itself, and its qualities, as a nation. To Australian and world audiences, the film took on an added significance for it also marked the coming-of-age of the Australian film industry. Few moments of Australian history had ever been put on film before, and so Gallipoli brought to world audiences an Australia shaped by an Australian cast and crew (Connelly, M., 2007, pp. 41).”
The personal family connection to the film aside, it is undeniable that Gallipoli helped to shape not only my sense of national identity, but help Australia and it’s people as a whole, forming this sense of national identity through the film – as we reflect on what was a reality for our people in 1915.
- Gallipoli, V.H.S., 1981. directed by Peter Weir. Sydney: Roadshow.
- Connelly, M., 2007. Gallipoli (1981): ‘A Poignant Search for National Identity’. In The New Film History (pp. 41-54). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
“It is an old story but, in all of its guises, a perennially appealing one. A poor boy makes good. A secretary marries her boss, thereby launching herself from the steno pool to the penthouse. A lowborn young man with a burning ambition and an idea that everyone tells him is crazy becomes a successful entrepreneur (Levinson, J., 2012, pp.1)”. This is the case in Ethan Coen and Joel Coen’s 1994 film, The Hudsucker Proxy – A satirical comedy about the world of business and corporate greed, following an ambitious but naive young man, who is blissfully unaware that he is part of the board of directors’ bigger plans, and moves up the corporate ladder from the mailroom to the executive suite after showing the directors his ‘idea’. “The myth of success, with its fervid conviction that the opportunity for material attainment and spiritual fulfillment is every individual’s birthright and is within each person’s power, is central to American national identity. Our public discourse and our cultural artifacts exalt the archetype of the self-made man who, with determination, industriousness, and strategy, propels himself to the pinnacle of achievement. Since the eighteenth century, the success myth has been a key component of American master narratives: those resonant stories that seem to contain the essence of the nation and that get told and retold across generations and genres (Levinson, J., 2012, pp.1-2)”.The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) uses a satirical approach to bring the Coen’s opinions on the workplace to the fore. But it’s only one approach, among many different examples of the many ways that entrepreneurship and the work society can be depicted on screen.
We can see the many examples of how this is done in the work of Michael Schur and Dan Goor alone, who hone in on the workplace in their many successful sitcoms inclusive of The Office, The Good Place and more recently successful, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. All of which discuss the workplace in a satirical, but simultaneously entirely serious all at the same time – approaching current social topics that involves workplace concerns inclusive of sexism and discrimination within the workplace and society, issues of inequality and even touching on specific social issues relative to the workplace such as police brutality.
- Levinson, J., 2012, The American Success Myth on Film, Palgrave Macmillan UK, London.
“First, argument is about the relations between one voice and others, one view and other. Arguing happens when voices oppose each other, when views conflict. Rhetoric seeks to understand how and why voices conflict… To argue is to engage with other views and voices, either explicitly (dialogue) or implicitly, anticipating how others may react to what one says. A second point is that argument is about address, about people addressing other people and other views. The aim is ‘to counteract’ arguments which seem ‘false’ and to ‘defend (themselves) or accuse'(Leith, D. and Myerson, G., 1989. Pp. 80-81.).”
This week we honed in on the topic of ‘Economic Inequality’, viewing Jacob Kornbluth’s Inequality for All, a documentary that follows former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich as he discusses the economic and social consequences that may result if the gap between rich and poor continued to widen. It’s interesting when we look back on this documentary now, as it was produced about several years ago now, as a lot of the consequences Reich discussed (such as the suspension bridge graphs that show similarities between the economies of 1928 and 2007 – and again now, as we face the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic) and feared, have come into fruition. Reich argues in this film, that as a result of globalisation, technology, job outsourcing, and Wall Street’s & the one percenters desire to have their profits as high as possible, we are now seeing stagnant wages, stilted college attendance rate, and the ruining of manufacturing jobs that made the middle class. Reich suggests that the solution to solving economic crisis is through the investment of the middle class, as they are the ones contributing to the economy the most. Reich’s argument is in an attempt to counteract the argument that is presented by the one percenters and the people on Wall Street, that this economic strategy is not working.
This same ideology was taken on and explored by director Henry Grazinoli, in his 2017 documentary Um Novo Capitalismo (also known as, and directly translated as A New Capitalism). After OXFAM launched a report showing that the richest 1% of the population owns the same wealth as the other 99%, Grazinoli wished to explore what could be done to tackle issues of social inequality. Grazinoli follows the stories of Brazilian, Indian and Mexican entrepreneurs and owners of companies with social impacts, that think they have figured out a solution: build a new, fairer and more human capitalism. These people that believe that having a profitable business while fighting poverty around the globe is possible, show us how it can be possible through examples of people who are doing it. This films shows us that we can see that this ideology and Reich’s argument that came out of Inequality for All (2013), is in fact, truth. The economic inequality crisis has only become worse since the production of the film, and Grazinoli’s film shows us that the new generation Reich was speaking to in his film, got his argument loud and clear – and are now taking it upon themselves to do something about it.
- Grazinoli, H., 2018. Um novo capitalismo. TALK Filmes.
- Reich, R. and Kornbluth, J., 2013. Inequality for all.
- Leith, D. and Myerson, G., 1989. The power of address: Explorations in rhetoric. Routledge.
“How, in the modern world, does gender manager to persist as a basis or principle for inequality? We can think of gender inequality as an ordinal hierarchy between men and women in material resources, power, and status. A system of gender inequality like this has persisted in the United States despite major transformations in the way that gender, at any given time, has been entwined with the economic and social organization of American society. A gender hierarchy that advantages men over women survived the profound social and economic reorganization that accompanied the transition of the United States from an agrarian to an industrialized society (Ridgeway, C.L., 2011., pp.1).”
Bonnie Cohen and Joh Shenk’s 2016 documentary Audrie and Daisy (2016) follows the stories of multiple teenage girls who have, while being intoxicated and unconscious at high school parties, have been sexually assaulted by boys they called their ‘friends’. After, the boys exploit their assaults to the entire schools, leading to the online harassment of the teenage girls – All of them attempt suicide, some, tragically succeeding, then blowing up into full criminal investigations. Not only does the film explore the public shame surrounding sexual assault victims and abusers, it highlights the complete legal mismanagement and gender/class/race inequalities that present within sexual assault cases.
This is an exceptionally important documentary when we discuss this idea of screening gender politics. Not only does the film explore the horrifying reality that is that in every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, but the reality is that in most cases, their assaults are committed and swept under the rug by the hands of the people that are meant to protect and care for them; The law enforcement, their friends, their family friends, and so on. Cohen and Shenk have effectively created an open discussion, forum and community on gender and the prevalence of sexual abuse within the viewers of their screen text, through giving victims of abuse and unjust mismanagement of abuse cases a platform to discuss their stories. By doing so, the filmmakers have brought this idea of screening gender to the forefront, rather than leaving it in the background as a topic to discuss in the afterthought of the production of the film. It’s an upfront, honest, commentary from the filmmakers on gender and gender inequalities. There is no other subject the filmmakers want you to walk away from the film discussing, other than the gender inequality that presents in this modern society that tells us the above quote from Ridgeway is truth, and screams at us that “femininity is… not the product of a choice, but the forcible citation of a norm… Once… she cannot approximate or properly cite the feminine norm, she questions only herself and her “performance” rather than the norm itself (Cheu, J., (ed.) 2012, pp.118)”.
- Ridgeway, C.L., 2011. Framed by gender: How gender inequality persists in the modern world. Oxford University Press.
- Cheu, J., (ed.) 2012, Diversity in Disney Films : Critical Essays on Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexuality and Disability, McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers, Jefferson.