Tuesday, October 18, 2011

film review: Red Dog

A 500 word (monthly) film review by Steve Taylor (for Touchstone magazine). Film reviews of the most common contemporary films, each with a theological perspective, (over 60) back to 2005 can be found here.

Red Dog. A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

At first glance, “Red dog” is a delightful movie, suitable for adults and children, a heart warming mix of human life and canine love.

A stranger arrives in a strange town. Seeking life, knocking on the door of the local pub, instead he finds himself beside the bedside of a dying dog.

Around the bedside, he hears the stories. This is no ordinary dog. This is Red Dog.

The plot is a storytellers delight. The pace is well-varied, the suspense genuine. The stories interweave, lives threaded together, each story offering a different slice of Red Dog’s life – his arrival, his elevation to dog for everyone, his finding of his true master, his role as match-maker and life-saver.

The stories produce some laugh out loud moments of sheer delight, the fights between Red Dog and Red Cat worth the ticket price alone.

Red Dog is based on a true story, of a real life statue, erected in 1979 in Dampier (an outback mining town in the Pilbura area of Western Australia). It relies on the skilled acting of Koko (playing Red Dog) and definitely panting for an Academy nomination. While Australian in accent, location and plot, Kiwi audiences will appreciate seeing a familiar face, Keisha Castle-Hughes, playing veterinary assistant become wife and mother. And in the statue of Red Dog, they will catch a glimpse of the famous Tekapo statue of the Shepherds Dog.

While at first glance a delight, a more closer look reveals a glimpse of the poor and pale reflection that is White Australia.

In a final climatic speech, as the town waits beside Red Dog’s bed, the “Pommy”, the “general” and the “politician” are contrasted with one’s mining “mates.” The speech lauds the values of loyalty and generosity, the need for a person to understand their land, to appreciate the red dust of the outback. It is a fascinating summary of so many values of Australian culture.

Ironically, sadly, the faces of those listening are all white, and the “Hear, hear” all European in accent. Their is no sign of, nor respect for, indigenous Australians, who for thousands of years before the arrival of white people, lived and loved in this red dirt.

One wonders what Red Dog, lauded for being the friend of all, would make of the absence of indigenous Australia. Surely in a plot-line based on multiple stories, it would have been possible to include at least one story of culture-crossing and the gifts and insights of the first inhabitants of the outback?

Another sinister reflection shimmers in the heat haze, that of the place of mining in Australian culture. “Red Dog” is a window into the loneliness and social dislocation that drives the Australian mineral boom and the industrialised transport lines that stain the beauty of the Outback. It is mining that is in fact driving a two-speed economy in danger of poisoning any Red Dog in their ability to be a friend for all.

Posted by steve at 05:11 PM

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