Obviously, if you’ve kept half an eye on the news lately, you’ve heard terms like “Black Lives Matter” being thrown around the place. There’s been protests–both peaceful and violent–in America, and over here there’s also been an abundance of protests (mostly peaceful marches), focusing on the plight of Australian Aboriginal people who have suffered police brutality and died in police custody.
Despite the fact that this a huge thing that I’m incredibly passionate about (my family will testify that I haven’t shut about it for months), I’m not going to be directly addressing the politics of this today. That isn’t what this blog is for. My blog is about stories and writing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help bring some light to this issue.
So today, I wanted to bring you another installment of Australia One Story at a Time and this time focus on a TV series I saw recently, which isn’t just a brilliant, well-done series, but is also a project that focuses heavily on Aboriginal people and social issues.
Now, I’ve only seen season 1 (Season 2 aired earlier this year, but because I’m a backward rural girl and it hasn’t come out on DVD yet, I haven’t seen it) so I’m only going to be reviewing that.
Mystery Road is a TV spinoff of a 2014 movie of the same name. (I’ve seen the movie as well, but the quality of the story line doesn’t compare to this series, so I’m not going to be talking much about it). It follows Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson), a hardboiled Aboriginal cop who is passionate about standing up and investigating crimes that are often swept under the carpet by the majority white police force (in the original movie, this is the murder of a young Aboriginal girl). Whilst working to solve mysteries in a Broadchurch-esque type show, Jay also has to deal with an abundance of social issues, including being an outcast in a white police force and being labeled as a “traitor” by other Aboriginal people.
The first season is directed by an Aboriginal woman (Rachel Perkins) and the second is directed by two Aboriginal men (Warwick Thornton and Wayne Blair). Both seasons were shot in various locations in Western Australia, including Wyndham, Kununurra, Broome and the Kimberley. The majority of the cast is also made up of Aboriginal people, with a few exceptions.
What Did I Think of the Story?
I thought it was brilliant. I adore mystery shows, particularly ones that are sort of gritty and more realistic than, say, Sherlock. (Broadchurch is a fave). So this was right up my lane. It’s hard to talk too much about it, without giving away spoilers, but just the Australianness of it all had me absolutely in love, as well as the way it pulled no punches. It admitted openly that there are a lot of issues in Aboriginal communities. Drunkenness, abuse, and cycles of poverty are rampant and it addressed things like abuse of power, and the struggles victims of rape face when their abuser is someone respected and admired.
The mystery is tight, engaging and left me hanging at the end of every episode, the actors were all brilliant, and the cinematography was astounding (how could it not be, seeing as it was filmed in some of the most beautiful places on the planet?)
There’s so much Australian culture–both the good and the bad bits–packed into the show, particularly focusing on Australian Aboriginal culture. A subplot revolves around water, a relatable issue to anyone who’s lived in a rural region. The characters use actual Aussie slang all the time (not Crocodile Dundee slang, as I like to refer to slang created for American/British audiences).
As I’ve already mentioned, it also highlights the bad points of Australian culture, of which there is unfortunately quite a lot. It highlights the divide between white and black Australia, particularly between the police and Aboriginal people trapped in crime. It highlights past atrocities against Aboriginal people and how white Australians can reconcile both with their pasts and with current Aboriginal people who are still suffer the effects.
Australian culture is also quite casually racist and this show made an effort to call out those seemingly small remarks that people make–about Aboriginal people and about immigrants.
Personally, I think at this time of a lot of justified anger, sadness and turmoil, it’s best for those of us who are white to shut up and listen to others. If you enjoy watching mysteries, get this one out, enjoy the story and take to heart the messages it presents. If you are American, watch this show or seek out other Aboriginal voices to remind yourself that America is not the centre of the world, and that American blacks are not the only people to suffer under colonialism and racism.
I heartily recommend this show, because it balances story, good acting, brilliant cinematography, politics and social aspects and blends them all together into an engaging, enjoyable and thought provoking piece of media. If you can, definitely watch it.
What about you guys? Do you enjoy mystery shows? Have you seen Mystery Road (or Broadchurch)? Have you been seeking out non-white creators to add some diversity to your reading/viewing? Do you have any recommendations for similar shows?