‘Ter­ror Nul­lius’ by Soda–Jerk


No­table men­tions

Sweet Coun­try by War­wick Thorn­ton Acute Mis­for­tune by Thomas M. Wright When the Ian Pot­ter Cul­tural Trust pub­licly de­scribed the most re­cent co-com­mis­sion in its part­ner­ship with the Aus­tralian Cen­tre for the Mov­ing Im­age (ACMI) as “un-Aus­tralian”, and re­moved the trust’s name from the cred­its, it en­sured this film would be­come an in­stant cult hit. And the work de­liv­ers. So­da_Jerk is an art col­lec­tive com­prised of sib­ling duo Do­minique and Dan An­geloro, and Ter­ror Nul­lius: A Po­lit­i­cal Re­venge Fa­ble in Three Acts is a ve­he­ment and un­re­lent­ing remix of Aus­tralian cinema that is, as billed, “equal parts po­lit­i­cal satire, eco-hor­ror and road movie”.

The 55-minute piece sam­ples and remixes na­tional iconog­ra­phy and canon­i­cal screen ref­er­ences to cre­ate a crit­i­cal work of so­cial com­men­tary and an au­da­cious take on the Aus­tralian Gothic. This epic coun­ter­cul­ture film ri­otously tra­verses the vexed land­scape of Aus­tralian mythol­ogy and iden­tity. It is an ode to our film and tele­vi­sion archive, while also min­ing its con­tent to re­con­struct and re­de­fine nar­ra­tives around Indige­nous land rights,

LGBTQIA+ is­sues, refugee pol­icy and misog­yny. At a time when Aus­tralian pol­i­tics is in­creas­ingly sin­is­ter, So­da_ Jerk in­stru­men­talises his­tor­i­cal touch­stones such as Gough Whit­lam’s dis­missal in 1975, the Tampa cri­sis of 2001, the cel­e­bra­tions of the Aus­tralian bi­cen­te­nary in 1988, the rise of Pauline Han­son, the 1992 Mabo de­ci­sion and last year’s mar­riage-equal­ity postal sur­vey to cre­ate an ir­rev­er­ent and acid-tinged his­to­ri­og­ra­phy.

So­da_Jerk de­scribes its prac­tice as be­ing at the in­ter­sec­tion of doc­u­men­tary and spec­u­la­tive fic­tion, and this work con­tin­u­ally shifts tonal­i­ties from lyri­cism to the di­dac­tic, and lay­ers mo­ments of rep­re­sen­ta­tion and un­re­al­ity. Char­ac­ters in Ter­ror Nul­lius are un­teth­ered from their films of ori­gin: when asy­lum seek­ers wash up on our shores they are greeted by Rus­sell Crowe’s char­ac­ter from Rom­per Stom­per; the

Mad Max 2 char­ac­ter Lord Hu­mun­gus is now in ca­hoots with Pauline Han­son; and Josh Thomas from Please Like Me

talks Indige­nous rights and con­sti­tu­tional recog­ni­tion with Ter­ence Stamp’s char­ac­ter from Priscilla.

When the Ian Pot­ter Cul­tural Trust with­drew its pub­lic en­dorse­ment just prior to the work’s premiere, it is­sued the un­der­state­ment of the year, claim­ing the film was “a very con­tro­ver­sial piece of art”. ACMI, to its credit, was un­wa­ver­ing in its sup­port for the com­mis­sion, and a di­a­logue around the im­pli­ca­tions of com­mis­sion­ing and ex­hibit­ing po­lit­i­cal works of art and film en­sued. Ter­ror Nul­lius is a land­mark piece of ag­i­ta­tion, and, as So­da_Jerk have boldly claimed, “even in late apoc­a­lyp­tic ne­olib­er­al­ism it’s still pos­si­ble to live the art and keep the fight”. Too right.

Alexie Glass-Kan­tor

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