What Happens Next: Travels in Perth

Do you know where Ballarat is? Well, for fans of DSTV’s The Doctor Blake Mysteries, it’s the Australian town where Doctor Lucien Blake works as police surgeon. In real life Ballarat is indeed in Australia and lies close to Melbourne, Victoria.

In the lift of the Rendevouz Hotel in Scarborough, Perth

I’ve never been to Victoria but on a recent trip to Perth, Australia, I found myself thinking of this charming mystery series, drawing a number of parallels with my experience. Blake is played by Craig McLachlan, who, according to his IMDB profile, is an experienced all-rounder. In his role as doctor-cum-detective McLachlan/Blake always looks dapper in a suit and hat and is the perfect 1950s gentleman. Today’s Perth, like McLachlan, has much to offer: a superb public transport system, beautiful beaches, and a growing business sector. But, like Blake, Perth also has a sort of ‘old’ feel about it. The bus service, the litter-free suburbs, the single-storey shopping areas that appear en route without fanfare, the quietness, the tree-filtered sunlight (even in desert-like Perth).

We stayed on the 23rd floor of this 25-level hotel that actually has only 17 floors. Huh?! It’s not like they could slot the missing floors in…

Although The Doctor Blake Mysteries doesn’t feature much humour a lovely Australian film that does is the The Dish (2000). It’s the based-on-truth story of how a huge satellite dish in a remote farming town in Australia was surprisingly used to assist in the 1969 Apollo space mission to the moon. The dish is manned by overawed locals who make several huge mistakes (like losing the rocket). I enjoyed the quirky, non-Hollywood characters and the gentle pace of the story. In The Dish, something big and important – like working for NASA – was cloaked in likeable, down-to-earth characters. A little like Perth. Perth is a place of obvious development and opportunity. But dressed in a certain simplicity and quaintness. Almost like you’re waiting for something to happen.

I’ll be watching episode seven of Doctor Blake season five tonight. To see what happens next.

The Redfern Story

Durban International Film Festival 2016: Short, sharp reviews by Brenda Daniels

The Redfern Story is a fresh, positive, happy look at how the arts world was a germination ground for Aboriginal political consciousness in 1970s Australia. So used to angst-riddled race rhetoric I welcomed this simple documentary that showed the originality, boldness, creativity and sense of humour that characterised the beginnings of Aboriginal theatre in a suburb of Sydney called Redfern. A gem.

Visit www.durbanfilmfest.co.za for further screening times

There’s More to the Dressmaker than Meets the Eye

Plot synopses of The Dressmaker describe this film as one in which a haute couture designer returns to her rural Australian town. Here she transforms the women of the town with her stylish creations, all the while wreaking revenge on those who, in the past, have wronged her, say the blurbs. Do not be fooled. This is no simple “revenge” story. It’s a fairly complex film about a woman, Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Kate Winslet), who searches for clarity in her past, and for love and acceptance in the present. And it’s about the unchanging, selfish cruelty of humans, particularly when those people work in a group.

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Judy Davis as Molly Dunnage in The Dressmaker. Photo: Ster Kinekor

The Dressmaker is also very funny. Characters come across as “stock” theatre ones, complete with an evil teacher, an OCD recluse, a simpleton (who speaks the truth), a snob, a cross-dressing policeman, and an impossibly good looking, good-natured lover (Teddy McSwiney – played perfectly by Liam Hemsworth). Even the setting looks like a stage, with Tilly and her mother’s house perched at the top of the hill, overlooking the one-street town below. The transformation of the women into (ridiculously) stylish fashionistas is amusing. Molly (a brilliant Judy Davis), Tilly’s mother, is a hilariously grumpy, whiskey-swigging, unsentimental old bat. And the competition that arises between Tilly and rival dressmaker, Una Pleasance (Sacha Horler), kept me giggling in my seat. But once again, do not be fooled. The humour turns black as evil truths about the people begin to emerge.

Basically, the storyline goes as follows: as a child, Tilly was accused of killing a young boy and was sent away. Molly’s mother remains in the town as an outcast. Her father is unknown. Tilly returns to fill in the blanks of her memory and in the process the real motives of the townspeople are revealed. I cannot say more than that for fear of giving spoilers. Suffice to say that this is a very interesting, very entertaining film and very worth watching.

PS: If I was an actress and got to choose my role I would have acted as Molly!

The Dressmaker is showing at Cinema Nouveau in South Africa. The film opened on 5 February 2016.