Sunday, 9 August 2009

MIFF : The Matilda Candidate movie review

Curtis Levy is better known as a filmmaker (The President Versus David Hicks) but in his documentary The Matilda Candidate, he becomes the subject in his own film as he runs for a place in the Senate during the last Federal election on a ticket of Waltzing Matilda for the National Anthem. He believes it represents the spirit and history of Australia and wants to re-ignite public debate which will lead Australia to becoming a republic.
It is not surprising therefore that we hear the titular song some 26 different times during the 57 minute running time. It becomes its own highlight as it is presented in a different way each time : by an opera singer, aboriginal women with guitar, on didgeridoo, by Dame Edna, by marching bands, the banjo, a Chinese harp, at a football stadium before a Wallabies game and (my personal favourite) on Levy’s own mobile phone as his ring tone (well, what else would he have)?
The documentary shows Levy campaigning on the streets of Sydney, interviewing some people with a personal story to tell concerning the history of the song, via a re-creation of the events that inspired the song and by utilising old footage (using Dad ‘n Dave’s ‘Rudd for PM’ was a great get). Bruce Petty also chips in with some of his timely cartoons.
Levy said that he was deeply uncomfortable about the potential conflict in making himself the subject of his own documentary (“I broke all my own rules”) and had to make committed promises to his financiers that he would not use their funds for campaign purposes. It is a key reason why his campaign has very little in the way of funds.
The friction and banter between Levy and his friend and volunteer campaign manager, Jo Smith, gives the doco its great sense of fun and mischief even as Levy introduces important ideas and themes about Australia’s identity. His humour is delivered deadpan while the patient Jo endures his criticisms, all the while exposing his own lack of planning and strategy. Her great comeback is that she votes Labour and believes Australia should remain a monarchy!
It is anticipated that this doco will appear on ABC TV later in the year.


Vanessa Bates said...

Saw The Matilda Candidate at a screening at Chauvel a few days ago and was nearly sick I laughed so much. Levy and Smith have got to go down in history as one of the great accidental comedy duos of all time.

GGBlog said...

Thanks for your comment Vanessa. I agree that campaign manager Jo Smith makes the perfect foil to the understated Levy. What remains unclear to me is how "serious" Levy was about campaigning compared to creating a quirky documentary.