It’s nice to have gotten into a writing rhythm. I’m not always sure what I will write about, but it’s nice to be forced into the discipline for a bit.
I recently watched the film, Mary: Queen of Scots. Have you seen it? I’ve never traditionally had much interest in films and TV on English monarchs, it feels a little unfaithful to suspend disbelief and enjoy the entertainment without thinking about the bloodshed and havoc the various reigns were responsible for. What was interesting about this film however, was the focus on two female monarchs with very different attitudes on monarchy, marriage and their crowns.
I recommend the watch, if only for Saoirse Ronan as Mary. Her ability to so completely inhabit the persona of the monarch makes for a powerful performance. Hers is a character who is so willing to serve and give her life for her people, but who also so deeply believes that these people are her subjects. She is their Queen, and expects the accordant deference. Juxtaposing Ronan alongside Margo Robbie’s Elizabeth the First didn’t do Robbie’s character a huge favour; the protagonist was very clearly Mary. But the film did give some insight into the challenge of being not only a monarch, but a female one at that, in a court where literally everyone around you is plotting and scheming in some manner. ‘A lonely job’ doesn’t do the isolation of that position justice. It would have been utterly exhausting.
I have such mixed feelings about monarchy, brought into sharp relief now that I live in the heart of the empire: London. I am confronted with regular news of this land’s Royals on a daily basis - the very same descendants of those in the film. How is it a moral or ethical system? Do we accept it because of their ‘tourism value’, as one Brit told me, or because ‘they are the true essence of the country’? I’ve been told the Queen holds the country together, and is at least the one thing people can believe in above the mess of Parliament. Perhaps these attitudes are credit to this particular Queen rather than the institution itself.
I find myself instinctively uncomfortable with the concept of monarchy, but who am I but an uncivilised Sudanese Australian, a double colonial subject? Either way, I am still not of this land. Perhaps it makes no difference what I think about it at all.
You all know I deeply, deeply love motorsport. So when the opportunity to check out the newest Formula 1 cinematic masterpiece came along, I jumped at the chance! Check out my review of 'Rush', released earlier this month, with Josh Kruse (a fellow journo at Richard's F1)!
The intake heaves, urgently drawing every inch of air and oxygen into the cylinders.
The camera zooms in, past the smooth movements of the pistons, while your senses are overwhelmed by the roar of the intake.
The new Formula 1 film, Rush, is an adrenalin filled, cinematographic feast. It is a motion picture that should, and will be appreciated by fans of the sport, but you don’t have to love the world of Formula 1 to appreciate this particular piece.
Ron Howard’s Rush is set in the 1970s, two conflicting personalities progress through Formula 3 to Formula 1, where they would create one of the most extravagant and memorable seasons Formula 1 has seen. It’s a story that can literally tell itself.
Rush focuses on the infamous rivalry of Austrian and British drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt during the early 70’s. It is an era that as young Formula 1 fans, neither of us had heard and read much about, but was truly brought alive by actors Daniel Brühl (Lauda) and Chris Hemsworth (Hunt) on the big screen. The atmosphere of the 1970s racing world – no safety, loads of scantily clad women and drivers with actual (visible) personalities – was so convincing, we felt nostalgic for an time we had never even experienced.
Lauda is the man whose methodical and meticulous approach to his career earned him the success he yearned for in Formula One. Lauda is a perfectionist, involved in every aspect of the car and tunes his ride to faultlessness. Niki, unlike James, calculates and plays the odds consistently.
Hunt is the glamorous English playboy whose fearless bad-boy persona makes him irresistible to women. He, on the other hand, lives like he drives: emotionally with no holds barred and little regard for logical details like odds and risk. He is chaotic, charismatic and larger than life.
The events of the 1976 World Championship make for heart clenching watching: Lauda’s harrowing crash, his painful – truly painful – recovery and Hunt’s desperation for the title are all depicted brilliantly.
Neither driver is a hero or a villain, although the film makes you love and hate both in equal measure. These were two very different men with wildly different motives for racing who were eventually brought together by the sharing of a title and the development of a mutual respect.
The casting for Rush could not have been better. Hemsworth does a fantastic job of playing the party boy role, while Brühl’s spectacular depiction of Lauda is remarkably accurate down to the accent, earning high praise from Niki Lauda himself.
The excitement of engines roaring to life before they take on the graveyard, The Nürburgring, will send deep chills down the spines of F1 fans, as they know of the unfortunate events that occur. Although one step ahead of us, Howard makes the entire scene so tense you’ll be gripping the arm rest waiting for it to happen. Then it does, Lauda’s Ferrari suffers a mechanical fault and smashes into a barrier, the car erupting into a ball of flames as the fuel tank is punctured.
Cue Hans Zimmer.
A well-balanced mix of cinematography and musical composition make Lauda’s fiery crash entrancing to watch. You’re so absorbed by the emotional scene that’s supplemented by a dramatic orchestra it becomes easier to picture the real event.
It’s not just this scene where Zimmer’s musical talent presents itself; all throughout the film the music that accompanies it is outstanding. Not since the amazing compositions from Antonio Pinto’s work in Senna have we rushed home (pardon the pun) and bought the soundtrack.
There are times where Hollywood steps in and depicts Lauda as the villain and Hunt as the hero, but you must remember that this is a movie, not a documentary.
Of course there will be those who lived through the era who remember the events of the day, and the relationship between the two drivers quite differently. That is not the point of Rush.
What you do have is a film that brings to life the beauty of the sport, the excitement of the race and the tension of the personal drama. It gives an inkling as to why people like us crave the race weekends, why the screams of a V8, V10 or V12 make our hearts beat a flurry. It is a film about the exquisiteness of the sport that we all love, and for that Ron Howard and all his team should be duly thanked.
Using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, we award RUSH (out of a possible five)…
RUSH is currently in national release in Australian cinemas. Check your local cinema for listing and session times.
Postscript: It is sad that on writing this piece, the news that Sean Edwards, a Porsche professional driver involved in the making of Rush was killed at Yassmin’s home racetrack, Queensland Raceway. Our thoughts are with his family, and it is a sombre reminder that even though we think the dangerous days of motorsport have past, it is still a sport that occasionally draws blood in the worst way possible. RIP Sean.
Salacious photos are not something to generally be given the time of day. When the topic comes up as part of another 'scandal' in politics or a celebrity's life, I tend to shake my head and wonder what the person was thinking.
Notwithstanding this, a subplot running through this week's 'The Newsroom' episode was cause for reflection, particularly around this idea (or myth!) of privacy in today's world.
The subplot in question was explosively introduced in the opening scene. Nude photos of one of the characters, Sloan (a respected TV anchor), had been posted up on a site. These photos quickly went viral, and the channel is left to deal with the results. The interesting thing about these photos was that they were taken with her consent by an man she was dating and trusted implicitly at the time. When she dumped him, he took the due 'revenge' he felt was 'owed' to him through by utterly humiliating her.
'I am feeling something very I don't know how to describe right now', Sloan says on the show.
Betrayal perhaps? Insecurity? Utter helplessness? One can only imagine what it must feel like to have a truly intimate moment be broadcast online.
Her confidante at the time said it was rage - or will quickly turn into rage. Sloan finishes the episode in the boardroom of said jilted lover, punching him out and getting a little revenge of her own.
There are a number of interesting readings of this plot. Sloan's character is a genius; she's a well respected economist and commands audiences of hundreds of thousands. Surely, a thirty year old highly educated woman wouldn't put herself in this situation. Surely she would think to delete identifying photos if they were taken, even if she had consented?
Well if recent history is anything to go by, people do very silly things with cameras and phones without seeming to think about the consequences (or in the case of Anthony Weiner, even seeming to care). In this case however, Sloan wasn't doing anything technically 'wrong', so that argument is less substantial. It does raise the question about the line between an individual's public and personal life though, particularly in an age where this is becoming increasingly blurred.
She sights her implicit trust in this guy as the reason she didn't expect this sort of revenge. 'It wasn't a bad breakup - but even if it were, would this be okay?!', she asks, and rightly so! Humiliation and the essential defamation can regularly - and do regularly - annihilate reputations. We all know that reputations are the easiest things to damage and the most difficult to repair. So the act of distributing the photos we can agree, is immoral.
Is it criminal?
Whose responsibility is it to ensure these things don't happen?
Is your privacy always your individual responsibility or should is there an implicit trust in relationships with people - and institutions - that should also bear part of the burden?
Unfortunately, it is increasingly difficult to effectively operate in this society without being online. So how does one walk the line? Are we all to always be on-guard and take precautions, accepting that being selective about what we share - even to our closest friends - is never really actually private?
What will happen when people growing up in this online society become leaders of state? Will there never be any surprises because everything is already online? Will our moral appetites change because we become accustomed to every single infraction being displayed and obsessed with the world over? Or will there be an industry based around the erasure of online profiles to give people an opportunity to 'start afresh'.
"Everybody, at the end of the day wants to come back with the best shot."
The Bang Bang Club.
Wow, does this film give some food for thought.
Where …are they getting the guns?
What …do you care man, it doesn’t matter. Just take the picture!
The movie, The Bang Bang Club, follows the lives of four war photographers during the apartheid in South Africa and their adventures while they attempted to record and broadcast the events of the conflict through image.
Although the film did capture part of the emotional journey, the film makers did not interrogate the moral and ethical dilemmas as deeply as they could have. Instead, the film chooses to follow the stories of the men more generally and to refer to greater issue indirectly.
This doesn’t detract completely however from the question underlying the film: what is the role of photojournalist in a war zone, a person driven by humanity or by the passion and job description?
How then, does that fit in with moral and ethical expectations that we have as a society?
Kevin Carter, one of the four members of the club profiled in the film,committed suicide shortly after being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for taking a photo of a starving child in Southern Sudan.
The guilt of not doing anything to save the child, and moreover being constantly asked and berated for his “inhumanity” was said to be his undoing.
…But who are we, as mere observers, to tell people like conflict photographers what they should and shouldn’t do in the line of duty? How would we know what we would do in such a position?
The more important question is…Should they interfere? Are we allowed to judge them as we do if they do not?
It is interesting to read interviews with the journalists themselves, years after the fact. For example Greg Marinovich speaks below about the piece “Mob Attack”.
…the door was flung open and this guy with a scarf tied like a turban around his head came dashing out. He looked me straight in the eyes, and then took off.
All these other men started chasing him, and he hadn't gone far when he was brought down. About 15 or 20 men were all around him, hitting and stabbing and clubbing. And I was right there, photographing it. On the one hand, I was horrified, and at the same time I was thinking: what should the exposure be?
It was the old days: analogue, manual focus, crappy cameras. I felt torn between the horror of what I was seeing and trying to capture it. I was also thinking, how am I going to survive this? Because sooner or later these people are going to say, "There's this guy taking pictures of us committing murder." I was 1km from my car and the nearest outsider.
They killed him. And then one of them turned and said, "The white guy's photographing." Everyone leapt away, and I said, "No, it's fine, it's fine. Why did you kill him? Who is he?"
It was my first exposure to such a thing. And although, as a journalist, my reaction was fine, as a human being I felt I'd really let myself down [emphasis added]. It wasn't how I'd expected I'd react – I thought I'd try to intervene, or do something more noble. Yet I hadn't. I was really quite torn up about that. I was gutted that I'd been such a coward. From that moment, I was determined that, no matter what, I'd try to intervene and save someone if I could.
It cannot be easy, and it isn’t an area with black and white distinctions; war never is. It is easy for those sitting in comfortable chairs at home to disparage decisions made in the heat of the moment of an intense conflict zone. The fact of the matter remains that without photojournalists, journalists and the men and women who put themselves in the line of fire to report, we would never have records of the atrocities that occur around the world.
As a society, we send soldiers out to fight on behalf of our “freedom”, but then avoiding dealing with the effects of war on a conscious. Similarly, I believe these photographers, and many journalists in similar situations around the world, sacrifice a part of themselves for what they believe is a greater cause. It is a sacrifice they have volunteered, and sometimes, they pay the ultimate price.
Whether we agree with their actions in the heat of the moment is a speculative, and a question of morals and values based on the individual. Either way, we as a society should be grateful.
Read more about this fascinating topic via the links below:
The short film below illustrates what happens when you take individuals from opposite sides of the pack mentality and place them in a neutral environment.
There is no denying the human race is obsessed with conflict. Our history as a species is riddled with conflict; often great change is only ever achieved through periods of upheaval, also often characterised by conflict.
It would seem that conflict and war is one of the great catalysts for change. As humans it is so easy for us to disregard an injustice if it doesn’t affect us, however once the conflict reaches our circle of comfort we are then catapulted into action…so then perhaps it can be said that conflict is a part of ‘human nature’, or at least the human story.
Couldn’t it be argued however, that ‘anything humans do’ is a ‘part of human nature’? If so… does that mean everything should still allowed to be seen as acceptable?
Where is the line between blaming our collective actions on human nature and taking personal responsibility for our actions?
Conflict is inextricably linked to the concept of “War and Peace”; the age old battle between “good” and “evil” illustrated through decades of battle between empires, to grudges between siblings or the fight on the streets between criminals and the police.
Good versus Evil is perhaps example of an completely polarising dichotomy that is in fact, extremely subjective. Isn’t one man’s terrorist another’s freedom fighter? Who decides who is good and who is evil? It is a concept also so all encompassing that it can be stretched to meet almost any agenda. Australia is one example where inter-communal tensions are sometimes framed within the “good versus evil’ concept. This often fails to highlight the true nature of any conflict, instead depicting groups as a single, monolithic entity rather than a number of human beings with humanised emotions.
The example of the relationship between mainstream Australia and asylum seekers perhaps, or the Cronulla riots in 2005 or even the fall out after the protests in Sydney (in response to the Youtube video made on the Prophet Muhammed PBUH) are examples of situations where the ‘pack mentality’ overshadowed individual thought processes and where those labelled as ‘different’ were now seen as the enemy.
This group think process is furthermore fueled by our environment. Shortly after the protests in Sydney last month, comments were made in the media highlighting that “ethnic tensions were set to explode” (source).
A key ethnic affairs adviser to the NSW Coalition government has warned that religious and ethnic tensions in western Sydney have the potential to “explode” the nation’s multicultural fabric in the aftermath of last Saturday’s Islamic riot.
Dai Le, a Vietnamese boat-person and former ABC documentary maker…warned that multiculturalism was threatened unless new arrivals continued to integrate into overarching national values… (source)
In the light of such rhetoric, you cannot blame individuals for perhaps thinking the worst…
So, on further reflection, there are three points that are being made.
Firstly, in situations where opinions are being shaped by a highly influential environment, it becomes very easy to see the world in a good versus evil, war versus peace dichotomy. We all know however, when looking at the facts that life is rarely ever that black and white and often it depends on the individual values and perspectives.
This then leads to the second point on dealing with “tensions” on a broader scale. There is no doubt that incidents such as the Cronulla riots require an investigation of the underlying currents in a community. But the discourse in which such a situation is dealt with must behonest. It doesn’t take a lot to find out what the issues are; often all you must do is ask.
Thirdly, on the question of conflict and human nature, in light of the above…
I believe that it is folly to say that conflict isn’t a part of human nature, given our propensity towards it in history. I don’t believe the ‘human nature’ argument however, can be used as an excuse.
It is our responsibility as humans to live up to our moral standards and take individual responsibilities for our actions, and that means choosing to not engage in conflict.
Conflict used for change is often a race to the bottom; brutality can extend its miserable tentacles and affect generations. Only when a cycle is broken by collective individual actions to act differently can ‘peace’ be found…whatever peace means.
This is fabulous! Oh how I want to find a copy of this film...
Le Gran Final!
How is it possible that children living in the remotest part of the Mongolian steppes know who Ronaldo is? This documentary film tells the adventurous story of three heroes, none of whom have ever met, but who nevertheless have two things in common: firstly, they all live in the farthest-flung corners of the planet and, secondly, they are all three determined to see on TV the final in Japan of the 2002 World Cup between Germany and Brazil. The protagonists in this 'global' comedy are: a family of Mongolian nomads, a camel caravan of Tuaregs in the Sahara, and a group of Indians in the Amazon. They all live about 500 kilometres away from the next town – and the next television – making their task a particularly daunting one. Nevertheless, these inventive people possess the resourcefulness and the willpower to achieve their goal.