A Cross to bear

A film­maker ex­plores na­tional iden­tity and na­tion­al­ism

Life & Style Weekend - - RELAX - Seanna Cronin

WAR­WICK Thorn­ton ex­plores Aus­tralia’s com­plex re­la­tion­ship with the South­ern Cross in a new doc­u­men­tary for NITV’s film se­ries You Are Here. Premier­ing to­mor­row, the se­ries – pre­sented by Mi­randa Tapsell – lets Aus­tralians ex­plore na­tional iden­tity through a shared indigenous ex­pe­ri­ence.

We Don’t Need A Map sees Thorn­ton, best known for his ac­claimed drama Sam­son and Delilah, step out from be­hind the cam­era to nar­rate and con­duct in­ter­views.

“I hate films that have a re­ally em­pow­ered, self-im­por­tant di­rec­tor who says ‘You know noth­ing; I know ev­ery­thing,” he tells Week­end.

“But this is some­thing im­por­tant to me. What is hap­pen­ing with our coun­try with na­tion­al­ism is a worry for me. I knew I’d have to be in it (the film). I don’t pre­tend to be a book of knowl­edge. It’s im­por­tant to go on a jour­ney with an au­di­ence and with peo­ple who do know a lot.”

We Don’t Need A Map ex­plores the his­tory of the South­ern Hemi­sphere’s most fa­mous con­stel­la­tion, which has been claimed, ap­pro­pri­ated and hotly con­tested for own­er­ship by a rad­i­cal range of Aus­tralian groups.

But for Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple the mean­ing of this heav­enly body is deeply spir­i­tual and, as Thorn­ton dis­cov­ered, just about com­pletely un­known.

“There are tra­di­tional sto­ries, but it’s not just talk­ing heads and aca­demics,” he says.

“I de­signed the film to have a lot of en­ergy – a lot of punk mu­sic and rap to di­ver­sify it – and I used mar­i­onettes to tell a bit of his­tory. It’s not some stag­nant es­say.”

Thorn­ton, who in­fa­mously voiced his fears about the South­ern Cross be­com­ing a swastika in 2010, is un­apolo­getic about his film’s “lefty’’ tone.

“One of the most im­por­tant things for me is I didn’t want to give any racist per­son a sin­gle frame or pre­cious time in this movie,” he says.

But he also read­ily ad­mits the film forced him to ad­dress his own prej­u­dices.

“Ev­ery time I’ve seen a bloke with a South­ern Cross tat­too I was like ‘I don’t want to talk with them’. That’s my form of racism; that’s me cre­at­ing a di­vide,” he says. “I learned a lot about my­self.

“De­spite all those fears I had about na­tion­al­ism, af­ter the film I was quite hope­ful. I re­alised we’re smarter than that. We’re a bloody good coun­try ... there’s hope.”

The You Are Here film se­ries be­gins to­mor­row at 8.30pm on NITV.


Film­maker War­wick Thorn­ton, right, in a scene from the doc­u­men­tary We Don’t Need A Map.

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