The Hunting

Every now and then we are gifted with a piece of art that forces us to confront our biggest fears and society’s greatest misgivings and this is exactly what the Australian mini-series The Hunting has done. This four-part drama which aired on SBS last Thursday, follows the release of nude photos in two Adelaide high schools and the irreversible impact this has on the students, families, and educators. Closer Productions, a collective of accomplished Adelaide-based filmmakers, present an exploration of sexuality and its intersections with gender and culture, offering a complex and genuine portrayal of adolescent life in Australia.  Creators Sophie Hyde and Matthew Cormac, and directors Hyde and Ana Kokkinos have produced a compelling and intuitive series that doesn’t shy away from explicit themes.

In the opening scene we meet Zoe and Andy, played by Luca Sardelis and Alex Cusack respectively. Cybersex is the catalyst for the dramas that arise between these characters – betrayal and a breakdown of trust. Zoe and Andy stand as accurate, in-depth representations of how adolescents explore their sexuality, and the different pressure experienced as a result of masculinity and femininity. Alongside Zoe and Andy, we see Kavitha Anandasiyam play Amandip, a young Indian teenager, and Yazeed Daher play Nassim, a Lebanese teenage boy. Together these characters spark an exploration into the impact culture has on the sexual development of adolescents. Through the character of Amandip, audiences see how conflicting expectations between ethnic home life and wider Australian society generates a fear that leads to secrets, and secrets which create a gulf between parents and their children. Like many young people, Amandip is living two separate lives, both of which she understands, respects and wants to be a part of.

These young adults should be highly commended for their mature, layered performances; such brave and captivating portrayals show the reality of adolescent life in the 21st century.  Mirroring these teenage couples is a sexual relationship which develops between two teachers, played by Jessica De Gouw and Sam Reid. This relationship proves significant as it reflects how the gender constructions and sexual insecurities acquired in adolescence are carried into adulthood: present in the bedroom, the workplace, and nights spent at a bar swiping through Tinder.

The parental representation in The Hunting is diverse. There is everything from a progressive lesbian couple to conservative migrant parents to those who have a grave disconnect from the reality of their children’s lives. Because of these vast representations, every parent will find a way into this series. This production may also serve as a wakeup call, as it demonstrates how society as a collective has provided insufficient education around sex and sexuality to teenagers. There are gaps – no, potholes – in in the way we conceptualise and discuss sex, sexual identity, and relationships with our young people: these holes form when no institution, whether it be school or home, takes responsibility for thorough and wholistic sexual education. The result? Teenagers enter the infinite and unregulated world of the internet because they are naturally curious.

The Hunting doesn’t throw a blanket over all adolescents. It doesn’t paint them all as basic, angsty individuals, but as complex and inquisitive beings.  This show also doesn’t suggest that parents further discipline their children, regulate their behaviour, or keep their teenagers on a shorter leash. Instead, this show exposes the need to guide, educate, and form open, honest connections with young people in order to empower them to make smart decisions. This needs to be done in schools and at home. There is a need to educate about the power of their bodies and the effects of their actions in this virtual and tangible world that is often unforgiving. This education can’t be done with a whiteboard or a slideshow or by taking notes. This requires two-way conversations that are constructive, comprehensive, and tolerant.

I would like to finish by saying that I wish The Hunting existed when I was in my adolescence: a show that didn’t skip over the darker conflicts of teenage life and didn’t bury its head in the sand in regard to how teenagers interact with each other. I say this not only because I, like many, relate to the young people in this series, but because I believe it would have educated parents and teachers on the need to more effectively relate to young people; it would have started important conversations; and it would have been a means of showing the teenage experience without demonising the teenager.

Catch up on the first episode on SBS On Demand and tune in for Episode 2 on SBS Thursday 8:30pm.


Words by Michelle Wakim

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

C.A. Fletcher

Hachette 2019


 

Dogs were with us from the very beginning. And of all the animals that walked the long centuries beside us, they always walked the closest.”

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World follows Griz, a dreamer who lives with his family and dogs, Jess and Jip, on an island off the Scottish coast, decades after the apocalypse has happened.

The story begins when an outsider comes to the island, apparently eager to trade, but instead makes off with Jess. After setting off in pursuit of the thief, Griz is confronted by the realities of his world and finds himself in unfamiliar territory for the first time. Griz begins his quest with an idea of what he will find, only to discover the world is not quite as he imagined. In fact, it is turned on its head.

What sets Fletcher’s tale apart from other dystopia is the strong perspective of Griz’s character voice. The book is crafted in the style of a reflective journal from Griz’s perspective, dedicated to a photograph that he finds of a boy and his dog from the ‘Before’. This creates a nice duality between past and present.

Fletcher also avoids the well-worn trope of crafting a world destroyed by nuclear warfare. Instead, he creates a refreshingly haunting setting with a world whose population has dropped suddenly and drastically with ‘the Gelding’ (similar to the reproductive dystopia of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale). This leaves behind vast, haunting landscapes and empty cities, as well as gaps in the historical narrative that are explored during Griz’s quest.

The languid pace of the story, reinforced by long stretches of writing that describe Griz at sea with only his dog Jip for company, does cause the plot to drag at times; however, this is somewhat offset by an undercurrent of tension created by Griz’s reflective narration. The reader is aware that something bad is coming, but it’s going to take its time getting there.

If you’re looking for a slower, more reflective dystopian tale, or are really fond of dogs, then this is the book for you.

3.5/5 stars


Words by Rachael Stapleton

Review: Booksmart

Booksmart follows Molly and Amy, best friends on the cusp of graduating high school, who realise they’ve almost completely let the high school party experience pass them by. The night before graduation they have two goals: 1) go to a rager hosted by one of their classmates and 2) get Amy to kiss the girl she’s been crushing on.

 
Booksmart is a ridiculous, fun, smart romp reminiscent of Superbad and its kin. The tropes are familiar: an awkward nerd with a crush and a highly-strung future leader with no time for dating, go out and make a set of poorly planned decisions and things go awry very quickly. Unlike its predecessors, Booksmart doesn’t have hyper-masculine, dirty boy humour, despite sex being an important component of Amy’s character development. It felt revolutionary to watch this kind of film without endless dick imagery or stupid dildo jokes. The topic of female masturbation is broached, but it’s done in a sensitive and funny way, without the meanness or sense of shame of other comedies like this. Female friendship is a cornerstone of the film and much of the driving force behind its comedy. The film goes out to break much of the stereotypes surrounding female friendships: Molly and Amy are sex-positive (there’s a scene where the two of them watch lesbian porn in the back of a Lyft that made me laugh and cringe in equal measure), they care about each other, and most importantly the emotional crux of the film, their big fight, is not about a boy they’re both trying to sleep with.

 
I enjoyed Molly as a character and her growth was both funny and heartwarming, but seeing a character like Amy is breath of fresh air. Amy is an out lesbian who is crushing on a girl she’s not sure is interested in other girls. It was so nice to see a queer character who was not struggling with her sexuality and her own identity but with the very teenage experience of having a crush on someone. There was also a sex scene between Amy and another girl that wasn’t hypersexualised but awkward and kind of sweet and very funny. Amy is the kind of lesbian storytelling we need more of – her queerness isn’t ignored but it’s also not the only aspect of her personality.

 
The only criticism I have of this film is the relationship between Ms Fine, the girl’s teacher, and a student who has repeated the seventh grade three times. Technically the student was twenty and of legal age and Ms. Fine was a young teacher, but the relationship still sat wrongly on what was otherwise a sharply feminist film. Reducing a comedy actor Jessica Williams, who played Miss Fine, to a lonely teacher who sleeps with a student seems like a waste of talent and opportunity.

 
I really enjoyed this film and I’d recommend it to anyone. Hopefully it’s the first of many female-led coming-of-age movies.

 


Words by Riana Kinlough

5 stars

In Conversation with Lucy Moffatt

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honour of sitting down for an interview with Lucy Moffatt, author of Some Days. Over a cup of coffee, she delved into the process, emotion and the power of female friendship in her memoir. Written as a last conversation with her best friend, Chelsea, who she lost to cancer in 2016, Moffatt explores their friendship, immortalising Chelsea and finding a way to heal from such a devastating loss.

You describe your memoir as “one last long, winding chat with the memory of your best friend.” What was the catalyst for writing it this way?

I initially wrote my first manuscript in the traditional memoir style and it was okay, and I think I could have made something pretty good out of it. I can’t really remember how the idea came to me and at one stage I thought ‘what if I change this?’. Instead of talking about Chelsea, I addressed her directly. About the same time, I felt that I’d like to include her writing in the story. Once I started rewriting it that way, it was like the heart of the story suddenly came to life. I’d been struggling a lot with feeling like ‘oh this is so self-indulgent,’ writing a memoir. Like who cares?

Reframing it as a last conversation with her really brought out what I wanted the book to be. That’s what our friendship was. Especially those last few years when she was really sick, it was just sitting in her bed, with the T.V. on in the background and just chatting all day. It felt really good once I started to evoke that.

Two big concepts that came up in Some Days were regret and vulnerability. Could you talk about that a little bit?

For me vulnerability came first. There was this really clear idea that I could go one of two ways. I could try to run away from the things I was feeling and try to conceal it. Or I could take a deep breath and turn around and face it. And the way I thought I could do that was to try and be vulnerable and be publicly vulnerable. To ask for help and to talk about how I was feeling and more and more I started to feel like that could be the source of my strength. I could make something beautiful out of what I’ve been through.

The regret thing took a lot longer. It took a long time for me to feel like it was okay to say I made a mistake and I regret that. It’s so taboo and even now people are like: ‘oh no, no don’t say that you did what you had to do’, but the outcome was really awful. That was my call, and I made the wrong call and I have to own up to that. That was a chapter I wrote quite late, I don’t think it was until the third draft that I even wrote about regret because it was such a massive hard thing to tackle.

It’s the first time in my life that I could say I was in the wrong, but also be kind to myself about that not haranguing myself about it, not punishing myself for it.

You say in the epilogue that you put “our” story down, and you did this through Chelsea’s blog posts. How important was it for you, to have Chelsea’s own voice in your book?

As soon as I had the idea, [her words] were the thing that made it all hang in the balance. If I couldn’t include Chelsea’s words, then there was no point in writing the memoir.

She was a good writer, it wasn’t that she wanted to be a writer. I like her voice and I know she would have loved to be in print that way. Part of it was being a loyal friend. I also knew it gave an edge and a strength to the book.

You also touch on some very personal yet common issues such as mental health, the struggle to fit in, and sexuality. How important was it for you to record these difficulties you had growing up?

Initially, when I started writing it, I wasn’t going to write about anything separate from Chelsea. As I was writing I was realising how these other things fed into the grief I was feeling and into my friendship with Chelsea. One of the reasons our trust and our love and our friendship ran so deep was because being with her was like being apart from some of the things I faced growing up. We just accepted one another.

This experience of losing my friend is fairly specific, some people experience this loss, but these other things are quite universal. Lots of people don’t fit in. Lots of people struggle with who they are. Lots of people have difficulty accepting themselves. And if I’m writing about something so vulnerable, that I want to share, why not be vulnerable and use my voice?

You talk about positive female friendship and that it wasn’t until you got into your twenties that you were able to understand and grasp that. How important do you think it is to have these representations of positive female friendship?

Art can represent life as it is and represent life in a way that it can be. I’m speaking for myself here, but I have a tendency to emulate what I saw on screen, or what I read in books. If I was watching Gossip Girl my friendships were very different to what they were supposed to be. I love that quote: you can’t be what you can’t see. I really believe in role models and I really believe in representations of all kinds. Particularly with positive female friendships.

What was the personal transformation you feel you underwent while writing this book?

I think, what really shone out for me once I got towards finishing the book, was that I always wanted to be a writer, and I’d had some quite good ideas over the years but never followed through on them. I thought that was some kind of personal failing on my part like ‘oh you can’t focus’ or ‘you don’t have what it takes’. I think all it was, was that I had all growing up to do. I needed to work out what I have to say and how I want to say it. And to reach a point of self-acceptance where I can comfortably believe that what I have to say is valid and valuable. I think that was the biggest thing, learning how to put [my doubts] to the side and believe in what I’m doing.

Because it’s a memoir, I got to know myself a lot better. There were lots of things I wasn’t going to write about until I realised they’re all interconnected and that was really freeing. All of these things impact me and have impacted me. They are just a part of my journey and that’s important.

Do you have any events coming up that people reading should, know about?

I’m getting to do a podcast, called Just Make the Thing. We’ll be talking books, but really the podcast is about creativity and doing the work. We’re going to talk about how creativity can be a way to cope with grief.

If you could say anything to someone who was about to pick up your book what would you like the say to them?

Firstly, most of the feedback has been to keep tissues handy, because it’s sad. But I don’t just think it’s sad but kind of funny and some parts are neutral.

My big message is really to allow yourself to be vulnerable and allow yourself to be connected to people. Those two things are wells of strength that are far too often overlooked. That we’re stronger together than alone. Don’t be afraid of those big, scary feelings because they’re a part of it, they’re a part of all of us. It can be a source of strength if you allow it to be.

I want to say to anyone who is terminally ill, or who loves someone who is sick or who has just lost a loved one, or to those people who are struggling with mental health or self-acceptance, that whatever you are feeling is okay! Even the big, terrible emotions are fine and normal, and they do pass. And you are loved! There are so many people who want only to see you happy and at peace. Again, vulnerability and connection give us power and strength.


Words by Georgina Banfield

Some Days

Some Days
Lucy Moffatt


 

Some Days is the debut memoir of Lucy Moffatt, which focuses on the friendship between her and Chelsea. It is a part coming-of-age story, an attempt to come to terms with grief, third wave feminist manifesto, and an exploration of the human heart. This book was a comfort to read, to have experiences which were so close to my own on the page: the struggle to fit in, grappling with mental health, and the assurance that being fifteen was a bad time for everyone.

Moffat’s “one last long, winding chat with the memory of her best friend,” Chelsea, entreats us to the private memories, personal feelings and her process of piecing herself back together after the devastating loss of her best friend. Entwining Chelsea’s blog posts throughout the memoir transforms it from being purely Lucy’s story into both Chelsea and Lucy’s story, spanning from their first meeting as five-year-olds to their last conversation.

Gut-wrenching and uplifting at the same time Some Days reminds the reader that tragedy can strike at any moment. While there may never be that picture-perfect sense of closure we long for, Moffatt is a shining example that the human heart is stronger than we think.

The book was sometimes a struggle to read due to the depth of emotion, as with non-ficiton there is no ability to remind myself that this didn’t actually happen, that no one is feeling this amount of anger, depression and sadness. However, Some Days is an important read. It is not just a book about death but about growing up and finding your identity amidst a world which portrays female friendship as either gossiping over cocktails or fighting for male attention, rather than the complex relationships that they are. Moffatt makes it clear that she seeks to break those stereotypes and highlight the positive impacts of female friendship through her memoir.

While I occasionally struggled to get a clear picture of Chelsea in my head, I saw the strength of their friendship, through the beautifully written recollections of memories. Reading it, I knew that I had access to the most vulnerable side of the author and an intimate view into her heart at a time of extreme grief.

This memoir speaks to the universal experiences of love, loss, and growing up. It is a must read for everyone, written by a local author who truly encapsulates what the Adelaide arts have to offer.

 

4.5 Stars


Words by Georgina Banfield

The Art of Taxidermy

The Art of Taxidermy

Sharon Kernot
Text Publishing 2018


Sharon Kernot’s Young Adult verse novel The Art of Taxidermy offers an intimate look at the mechanisms of grief and how it can make you strange. Charlotte is just thirteen, has lost her mother and her younger sister, and is obsessed with making the dead look alive again. Her obsession leads her to collect, and then later taxidermize dead animals she finds in the bush surrounding her Australian home. Her aunt is horrified by this behaviour, but her distant father defends it as the burgeoning habits of a young scientific mind. Kernot makes the collection of the dead feel like a natural extension of Charlotte’s grief and pain; much like the meddling of Charlotte’s aunt and the distance of her father is an extension of theirs. The desire to resurrect the dead with whatever means available is both naively young and incredibly human, and Kernot explores it with a matter-of-fact tenderness.

It is not only their grief that makes Charlotte and her family strange. They are German immigrants and her father and grandfather were interned in the Loveday camp, near Barmera on the Murray River. The verse novel is set in the years after the second World War ended and the family’s German heritage marks them as different, as Other. It’s hard to imagine this family living outside this deep saturation of sadness – their tragedies started before Charlotte was born and it feels as though they will continue long after she’s dead.

Kernot paints a family in freefall after the unthinkable has happened, not once but twice, with a sure and steady brush. The work couples the swift, clipped charm of a verse novel and the unpredictable beauty of the Australian landscape in a captivating manner that showcases an author entirely comfortable with her form. This is a novel easily consumed in an afternoon, but one that lingers in the mind for weeks afterwards.

The Art of Taxidermy is due for release July 2 and can be purchased from Text Publishing here.

The book will be launched July 18 at the Tea Tree Gully Library from 6:30pm click here for more information.

5/5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

Love, Simon

Greg Berlanti’s film Love, Simon is a heart-warming, coming-of-age tale that teaches us three important lessons: self-acceptance, general acceptance and that when you talk to someone nice online, they aren’t always a Catfish.

 

In all seriousness, this film – particularly in our post-Plebiscite Australia which left many people in the LGBT community feeling alienated – is a necessary, affirmative antidote. The plot follows Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), a closeted gay teenager who, after seeing an anonymous coming-out post on his high school’s gossip page, impulsively begins an e-mail correspondence with the writer who goes by “Blue”. However, their growing friendship (and Simon’s secret) are soon threatened after he leaves his e-mail open on a public computer and finds himself being blackmailed by fellow drama student Martin (Logan Miller) who wants to date his friend Abby (Alexandra Shipp). What follows are a set of hilarious, awkward and tense events as Simon struggles to keep his secret and act like Cupid with his friend’s love lives, all the while attempting to discover who Blue is.

 

The film (and for the record, the book) avoids the melodramatic tropes that are usually expected from the young adult genre. The anxieties of coming out, even while being sure that you’ll be accepted by your friends and family, are addressed alongside the strong message that only the person coming out has the right to determine when and how they do it. To allay your unspoken fears: no, this film does not go the pot-holed John Green route and suddenly have a character die with an unlit cigarette in their mouth – it has some heart-breaking moments but ultimately keeps a tone of warmth. No character is necessarily a “side” character – each possesses their own quiet complexities. His best friends Leah (portrayed by 13 Reasons Why’s Katherine Langford), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and Abby are very likeable and we find ourselves wanting a deeper glimpse into their lives and thoughts. Even Martin has a heart of gold and genuine adoration for Simon and his friends (if there was such a thing as wholesome blackmailing, he has found it). I must also mention Natasha Rothwell’s performance as the drama teacher Ms. Albright who is guaranteed to make you howl with laughter.

 

What separates it also establishes this film as a future classic is the underlying mystery: who the hell is Blue? You will be spending the entire film as Simon does: seeing a potential Blue in any male who interacts with him. It is hilariously akin to how we fantasise about crushes; usually over the most minimal interaction possible. This worker at the café smiled at me while handing me my change – so I guess he’s the love of my life then. We naturally become so invested in this mystery that every time Simon finds out a guy isn’t Blue, we feel the same spear of disappointment being thrust through our hearts. I know what you really want: to know if there is a great pay-off to this mystery? To which I will reply, rather pettily, that if I had to suffer with not knowing then so do you.

 

There are people who will disregard this as a “gay movie” but this is a film which anyone can relate to. The universal messages of self-acceptance, friendship and awareness that people are struggling with things you don’t know about are always relevant – and necessary. And even though this film does centre upon a young man accepting his sexuality; this is ultimately a film about friendship and love. It is an important film that a lot of young people will take comfort in who find themselves relating to Simon’s situation.

 

If a film can make an ice-hearted cynic like myself write such syrupy tripe like “friendship and love” – well then you best be sure it is a damn good movie.

 

Love,

Well at the very least: Tolerance,

Me

 


Words by Jordan Early.