The Australian Dream review: A thought-provoking, pertinent documentary
Ivan Radford | On 18, Jun 2020
Director: Daniel Gordon
Cast: Adam Goodes
Watch The Australian Dream online in the UK: BBC iPlayer / Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
Australian football might not sound like the most relevant or interesting subject for a film, but The Australian Dream, a film about sporting hero Adam Goodes, is a surprisingly pertinent, powerful study of racism and identity.
The title echoes the American Dream that has pervaded so much of Hollywood’s output over the years, and Down Under, the dream isn’t all that different – and neither are the obstacles of racial prejudice and inequality that threaten to make said dream of opportunity and belonging unattainable for so many. Adam Goodes, for those not familiar with the name, made headlines when he stopped a match in 2013 to ask that a football fan be ejected from the stadium after calling him an ape. Goodes, who is of aboriginal descent, was shocked and offended by the racial slur, not just the words themselves but the way they were unabashedly shouted in public. The person shouting them? They were only 13 years old.
The result became a scandal for all the wrong reasons, as other people took offence at the notion that a man might pick on a child – and it’s at that point that the similarities between that story and what’s happening in the UK, the US and many other countries really hits home. Distracting the conversation away from the racial prejudices that are systemic in our civilisation, the resulting arguments tries to turn the victim into an ostracised villain. And yet Goodes stands up to this wave of abuse with compassion and calm tolerance, offering not only forgiveness to his abuser but also a chance to educate them in why what they said was racist.
It’s a shame that this is watered down somewhat by contributions from right-wing commentator Andrew Bolt and TV personality Eddie Maguire, two commentators who present what they would call the other side of the debate, but their words only highlight just how blinkered their world view is, as they hang themselves with their own attempted justifications.
But the more distasteful opinions on display are offset to a degree by an increasing focus on Goodes’ life – in particular, his decision to pursue Aboriginal Studies, tying his professional progression with his growing connections to his roots and heritage. The result is a moving insight into the most personal consequences of Australia’s political past, and, through one iconic display by former AFL player Nick Winmar, how sports can be a crucial force for change on a global stage.
Director Daniel Gordon and journalist Stan Grant put the whole incident into historical context, explaining how Australia was colonised by Captain Cook with no regard for the aborigine population who were already living there – that the film culminates in the dovetailing of these two strands through Goodes’ appearance at the national event Australia Day makes for a powerful cry to make a change and call out discrimination where you see it.
The Australian Dream is available on BBC iPlayer until July 2021