Aussie song sung true blue

Herald Sun - Switched On - - OUT OF THE BOX - GE­OFF SHEARER


and failed Se­nate as­pi­rant Cur­tis Levy is a one­man band thump­ing out a one-song play list.

Even his mo­bile phone is wired for sound— a tinny, elec­tronic ver­sion of Waltz­ing Matilda alerts him to an in­com­ing call.

Levy stood for a New South Wales Se­nate seat in the 2007 Aus­tralian fed­eral elec­tions on the plat­form of push­ing to make Waltz­ing Matilda the new na­tional an­them. His doc­u­men­tary, The Matilda Can­di­date, de­tails his up­hill bat­tle along­side long-suf­fer­ing cam­paign man­ager Jo Smith to try to at­tain the goal.

It doesn’t help that part way into the cam­paign, Smith ad­mits to be­ing a monar­chist— shat­ter­ing Levy’s con­tentions that Waltz­ing Matilda is an­themic for repub­li­cans.

The film con­tains sev­eral ver­sions of the song— from Chi­nese to Abo­rig­i­nal ren­di­tions— and Levy be­lieves it goes much fur­ther than be­ing a pleas­ant ditty.

‘‘It’s def­i­nitely based on a strong so­cial story and I can’t help be­liev­ing that it was in­formed by the po­lit­i­cal events that were go­ing on at the time,’’ he says of the mid-1890s when Banjo Pat­ter­son and Christina Macpher­son penned the tune at Dag­worth Sta­tion in west­ern Queens­land soon af­ter a shear­ers’ dis­pute.

‘‘That is the beauty of the song— peo­ple can read into it their own mean­ing in a way that ev­ery­body, all Aus­tralians, seem to own it.

‘‘If it’s an emo­tional oc­ca­sion or a cel­e­bra­tion, peo­ple tend to burst out with Waltz­ing Matilda rather than singing Ad­vance Aus­tralia Fair.’’

Levy has en­hanced that cel­e­bra­tory spirit in his di­rec­tion of The Matilda Can­di­date with an­i­ma­tion from his friend Bruce Petty and some self-dep­re­cat­ing and hu­mor­ous se­quences in­volv­ing his ul­ti­mately doomed run for elec­tion.

‘‘There was no script, it was all im­promptu. It was all as we were re­lat­ing at the time. There was un­for­tu­nately no real plan,’’ he says with a laugh.

The dif­fi­cult part was in the edit­ing suite, watch­ing him­self mak­ing a fool of him­self.

‘‘I hated it,’’ Levy says. ‘‘I some­times had to let the ed­i­tors show me in my worst light. I found it very dif­fi­cult to see how I be­haved and some­times I’d wished it had been scripted and I could have made a bet­ter fist of it.

‘‘In the past I’ve al­ways thought film­mak­ers shouldn’t be in front of the cam­era, but (US doc­u­men­tary maker) Michael Moore’s had a lot of suc­cess be­ing on cam­era— I’m no Michael Moore but he’s made a plus of his bum­bling im­age and if he can do it, well . . .’’

We won’t give away how many votes Levy tal­lied— that’s one of the film’s best punch­lines— but it can be re­vealed he is pre­pared to do it all again.

‘‘If there was a dou­ble dis­so­lu­tion to­mor­row, we’d cer­tainly con­sider go­ing again,’’ he says. ‘‘We would be more pre­pared next time.’’ The Matilda Can­di­date, PG ABC1, Tues­day, 9.35pm Doco-maker’s ill-fated waltz Du­ra­tion: 1 hour

Not on the same hymn sheet: can­di­date Cur­tis Levy and Jo Smith.

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