_black garden

—that’s my butt there, that’s what I keep thinking. And then what happens when you put the reviewer inside the review. How do you exorcise, how do you disembody, the self from the self from the self writing this. I can still remember the warm of the cold of that day in the rope factory, the carpark just outside the Woolies. But inside was pure magic, independent Australian filmmaking, and piles of infinite patience.

If you ask him about Black Garden (2019), maybe director Shaun Wilson tells you a little something about philosophy, about family, about that one weekend where he decided to make a feature length movie in two days about American politics with a Scottish devil, no less, and a RED Wookie Bowcaster. The lumbering, half-forgotten menace that is, that was, Henry (Wilson) dissolves into a smile. Carn, let’s get going. You’ll be fine. Don’t worry.

The film is nothing like that smile. It is sad and angry and full of uncertain times and uncertain tea. The camera only waits for its victims to stop. Then it keeps going. When it finds someone alive enough to latch onto, slowly but suddenly the film takes on a life of its own. It inhabits the space of the time where there’s not much to say, really, and nothing much happens. That’s life. That’s the struggle of it, the thick of it, the pain of the everyday, the ordinary muck of trying to make the best of a bad bad bad situation that speaks volumes about the filmmaking industry here.

To bother comparing Black Garden with, say, something as posthumously groundbreaking as George Miller’s Mad Max (1979), or Peter Faiman’s Crocodile Dundee (1986), or Guy Gross’ The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), or Rob Sitch’s The Castle (1997), or P.J. Hogan’s Muriel’s Wedding (1994), or Greg McClean’s Wolf Creek (2005), or Warwick Thornton’s Samson and Delilah (2009), or David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom (2010), is rightly unfair. Because that’s it. That’s all of them, really. Go on, Google “best australian movies” and that’s all that comes up. A paltry history of quirky comedies, downright tragedies, and subversive apartheid.

There are so many others that get lost somehow, mostly because they didn’t go through Screen Australia, or they didn’t want to pander to the sickly sweet unintellectualism that utterly utterly pervades our culture like a diseased cat. For once a film was prepared to take a stand, again, before wandering off into obscurity under the proviso of a cult, maybe, and then oblivion. If pride goeth before a fall, surely the heretic must take up this mantle instead, for heavy is the head that wears this kind of crown. It hurts to wear. It fits ugly beautiful in its own twisted sort of way.

I count myself lucky to be a part of this passive aggressive rebellion. The film doesn’t hurt anyone, but it sure as shit pisses off some folks. That must be the sign of greatness rubbing off.


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