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Newsletter 293

Published July 2, 2019
A big week for Cai and the Warriors

Apologies for the lateness of this newsletter but it’s been another one of those weeks when there’s been too much to do in too brief a time. The main distraction was my third Australian cinema lecture at the Union, Universities and Schools Club, this one on the depiction of indigenous people. These talks have necessitated mini film festivals at home as I’ve worked my way intensively through a whole series of movies, from the earliest days to the present. With the indigenous lecture there were plenty of landmarks: Jedda (1955), Walkabout (1970), The Fringe Dwellers (1986), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), Ten Canoes (2006), and finally a raft of movies by indigenous directors which I barely had time to discuss. That’s a whole new lecture, if ever I get the opportunity.

While I was still watching movies the Sydney Morning Herald had another sudden outbreak of art enthusiasm, and wanted an instant review of Michael Armitage’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. This is my second review written under exam conditions this month, which is not exactly my preferred method. It was only possible because I’d already done my homework with both Monet and Michael Armitage.

The current art column looks at Cai Guo-Qiang and the Terracotta Warriors at the National Gallery of Victoria. I’m also running a feature article on the same subject in the blog section, a piece orginally written as a preview but held over by the newspaper because other topics got in the way. The result is a double whammy on Cai and the warriors – another unique, innovative show at the NGV.

This week’s film is Parasite, Bong Joon-ho’s black comedy that won both the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Sydney Film Prize. A scathing look at the class system in South Korea, from what I saw of this year’s Sydney Film Festival it was a deserving winner.

The only news item that’s got under my skin this week is Israel Folau’s campaign to raise money to challenge the Australian Rugby Union in court over his sacking. Folau is, in fact, campaigning for his right to post hate speech about homosexuals or any other group, if his “religious beliefs” prompt him to do so. That he was doing so in breach of contact to an organisation that needs to maintain an image of all-inclusiveness, he sees as impingeing on his human rights.

The truly shocking thing is that Christian groups have agreed to back this court challenge to the tune of $2 million, and Folau has already raised $2 million from on-line donations. This is a poor reflection on Christian charity that it should promote homophobia and intolerance under the guise of “religious freedom”. If a muslim group were posting that infidels should burn in hell, the same Christian lobby groups woud be up in arms.

The worst penalty Folau has suffered for his appalling statements is to lose his job. No-one has persecuted or threatened him. He was given a second chance which he chose not to take, and is clearly in breach of contract. What ‘freedoms’ have been trampled? The freedom to be a bigot? The freedom to tarnish your employer with your extremist personal views? The word “freedom” now seems to cover a multitude of vile acts. Folau agreed to work within a set of rules, then ignored them. This is where this beat up, pseudo debate should end.