Aussie song sung true blue
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.