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Movie propaganda

To whatever measure your heart aches today, to the same measure it will rejoice tomorrow.

Jalil (Katayla Williams as a child, Alice Haines as an adult) is the daughter of an Aboriginal woman and an Afghan cameleer, Shir Mohammed (Siniša Copic). Raised as an aborigine by her grandfather (David Gulpilil) at first, she is later educated at a Lutheran mission run by Pastor Hoffman (Bille Brown), whose son, Johann (Ben Winsor as a child, Aden Young as an adult) is five years older than her.

But when both her mother and grandfather die, Jalil is taken in by her father, who has married a white woman and has a son. She now is forced to abide by the Moslem faith.

Love blossoms between Jalil and Johann, but her father insists he has the right, under Moslem law, to arrange a marriage with the local Mullah (Nico Lathouris), an elderly but much respected man. The climax has Jalil taking desperate measures to avoid marriage with a man she doesn't love.

Persons of interest

  • Alice Haines .... Jila
  • Aden Young .... Johann
  • Sinisa Copic .... Shir Mohammed
  • Bille Brown .... Pastor Hoffman
  • David Gulpilil .... Rainman
  • Nick Lathouris .... Mullah Jalal-Shah
  • Rodney Afif .... Abdullah
  • Katayla Williams .... Jila (aged 7)
  • Ben Winsor .... Johann (aged 12)
  • David Ngoombujarra .... Joseph
  • Eileen Darley .... Amelia
  • Yiani Harpas .... Amir
  • Monette Lee .... Blanche
  • Netta Yashchin .... Zeinab
  • Linda Rowlands .... Pearl
  • Celine O'Leary .... Anna
  • Stephen Sheehan .... Mr Becker
  • Mojgan Khadem .... Screenwriter
  • Mojgan Khadem .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

The big dry.

A lot of people forget that Australia is more desert than anything else, especially since most Australians live on the coast. Watching Serenades is a laconic reminder of the colonials' inability to understand the land that they stole: three piece, black woollen suits for the men and full length dresses with any number of petticoats for the men. Talk about blind stupidity.

Meanwhile, Serenades also exposes the inherent evil of religion and the foolishness of worshipping gods. Religion is nothing more than a way to control other people's lives. If you can find a religion that does not exalt any person over anyone else, that does not denigrate anyone because of circumstances beyond their control, that does not hold its own deity up above anyone else's and that does not rely upon mysticism for anything, then I will be more than happy to reconsider my beliefs. Isn't it funny how there are thousands of gods, each of whom is the one and only true god? Isn't it hilarious that most religions tell their followers that they are the chosen people? Talk about Heaven on Earth.

While I am bagging everyone I'll have a go at filmmakers who present films that suffer from an atrocious lack of continuity. Bright, harsh, sunlight becomes a soft glow filtering through the clouds, then goes back to bright, harsh sunlight. Wet people become completely dry, then wet again. Hands at the sides becomes hands on the hips then hands at the sides again. Light on the face becomes light behind the head then light from the side. Filmmakers need to understand that the audience is not as stupid as they think... or are they counting on the audience having fallen asleep by the time all these things happen? The fault and the responsibility lies with the director, the cinematographer, the continuity person and the editor. Do a better job or everyone will know that you're not up to the task of working on a big project.

Another beef I will get off my chest is Hollywood night-time. The picture is so bright that there is no real difference between day and night. Sometimes the background is black and people have lights so you know that it's dark. Sometimes not. Sometimes the director shoots the scene during the daytime with a blue filter. Like that fools anyone. Some "creative" people even put blue lights in strategic places to break up the darkness, you know, just like the way it happens in real life.

Now, on to the actors. Alice Haines makes a very convincing Aboriginal-Afghan-Australian although it is a little strange to hear an Australian accent amid the Afghan, French, German and Irish ones. Ironically, there are no Anglo-Australians anywhere in the film. Now, you can't get rid of them. But I digress... Alice is certainly the possessor of that dark-skinned, green-eyed beauty and a certain amount of down-to-earth solidity but she never quite becomes the character. There's a little too much of the 21st century Aussie chick in there which is not right for a woman with such a complex multi-cultural background. Aden, on the other hand, is so Teutonic that you can imagine him as a poster boy for Adolf. I first saw Aden in River Street, in which he also played the romantic lead with a brain. I was impressed way back then with Aden and am just as impressed now. Johann's accent is perfect, his uptight Christianity is perfect, his humanity is perfect, his stupidity is perfect. (he's a man, of course he's stupid.) There is no sense of a modern Aussie bloke lurking beneath the anachronistic Aryan exterior, which is just what a good performance should be like. Siniša is stuck with a less-round character than Alice and Aden but he manages to get some good things out of it, even if he is only there to make things interesting for other people.

The story? If you insist. Serenades comes close to being a really good film about really interesting person but it keeps getting side-tracked by the other characters. That diverts your attention away from the main character and it also makes you forget what's happening to her. What is the story behind the afghans? What happened to the Germans? Why did the assorted women marry devout Moslem men? Why did some Aborigines adopt Christianity and others not? Each of these stories is just as interesting as jila's struggle and thereby too distracting. Still, what does happen is a dramatic exploration of the first few issues in this review, and that's no mean feat.

All in all, if you like arty films about a sunburnt country then Serenades will be just your cup of apple and cinnamon tea: you'll have lots of things to think about as you walk out of the cinema and lots of things to talk about as you sip your post-cinematic cappuccino.

Security censorship classification

M (Medium level sex scene, low level violence)

Surveillance time

96 minutes (1:36 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 17 October 2001

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