Down Under by Abe Forsythe (Riot Film Pty Ltd)
They may be poles apart in terms of culture and religion, but Hassim and Shane have one thing in common: each wishes to have no part in the revenge that their mates are instigating in the wake of the Cronulla riots. Ultimately, neither manages to extricate themselves from their group’s violent missions, or the stifling, limited ‘male’ role they are expected to play. Clever use of visual gags brings the hypocrisy and absurdity of the venture to the fore, engaging us even as the tone grows increasingly sinister and the bloodlust of the rival groups escalates.
Part black comedy, part tragedy, Abe Forsythe’s screenplay explores the ways young men wrestle with the expectations of friendship, gender, sexuality and culture. While the 2005 riot at Sydney’s Cronulla beach is a shameful point in the timeline of Australia’s multicultural self-image, Forsythe throws a deliberately provocative spotlight onto it, hauling us into this raucous tale and never letting go. The shocking climax encapsulates the futility of their violence, and the sobering fact that it may have been avoided if these young men had been able to express their complex inner lives.
Down Under is a brave and urgent piece of work about the struggle to meet expectations placed on men in contemporary Australia. Forsythe manages to skewer both of the opposing groups, while exposing how they are held back by an identical failure: seeing the world through an over-simplified binary lens. This powerful cautionary tale speaks about the dangers of misogyny and racism. Both timely and timeless, Down Under is a triumphant exploration of the forces that informed the infamous Cronulla riots.