The Australian Dream (Daniel Gordon, Australia/UK) — TIFF Docs

By Beatrice Loayza

It’s no coincidence that the title of Daniel Gordon’s documentary portrait of Australian footballer Adam Goodes echoes the concept of the “American Dream”: after all, the history of Australia, like that of the United States, is a story of colonization and of the violence and racism that both fuelled it and still lingers in its aftermath. Goodes, himself a symbol of the nation’s greatness and its checkered past, was both demonized and celebrated for his public displays of indigenous-rights activism throughout his storied career. Through talk-show and news footage and screen grabs from social media, Gordon shows how Goodes was actively vilified for supposedly spoiling a national pastime with his divisive and “egocentric” efforts at battling endemic racism. Anyone exposed to media coverage of right-wing pundits and their hate-peddling rhetoric will understand the film’s motivating emotions (that odd mix of feeling numb, mad, and desperate all at once), but what’s most jarring are the displays of “casual racism” by self-proclaimed non-racists that show the rot at the root of prevailing (i.e., white) cultural attitudes. Gordon sometimes leans too heavily into clichéd visual tropes of introspection (Goodes spacing out while gazing at the sunset, waves crashing onto the shore, etc.), which, while not entirely out of place for a film that takes place primarily in scenic Sydney, nevertheless elicit eye-rolls from their prolonged usage. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to be moved by The Australian Dream, though it’s plainly obvious this is less a major feat of documentary filmmaking than a tremendous story passionately and empathetically told.

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