Tag Archives: Vietnam

Better Man

20 Nov

Better_Man Powerfully moving and with a strong message about capital punishment, this four-part Australian miniseries is based on the true story of Van Nguyen, a 25-year-old Vietnamese-Australian who was given the death penalty after smuggling drugs to pay off his brother’s debts. Directed by Khoa Do (Footy Legends) we follow Van’s story from his decision to smuggle the drugs, to his arrest at Singapore Airport, his trial and pleas for clemency. 

Driven by strong performances, especially Remy Hii in the role of the desperate Van, this is a gut-wrenching tale of a family’s fight to save the life of a condemned young man. We are introduced to Van through scenes showing us his home life in Melbourne and his relationship with his twin brother Khoa (Jordan Rodrigues), and mother Kim (Hien Nguyen, the real-life mother of director Khoa Do and comedian Anh Do). 

Better_Man_pic When his brother is unable to pay back his court case debts, Van agrees to smuggle drugs from Cambodia to Australia, making a fateful transit in Singapore where the hidden packages of heroin are detected. The excellent support cast includes David Wenham as Melbourne lawyer Julian McMahon who teams up with barrister Lex Lasry (Bryan Brown) in a bid to help save Van from the death penalty. 

 The airing of Better Man on SBS earlier this year was controversial, with Van’s mother Kim Nguyen calling for it to be halted as the drama was traumatising to her family. However others have since claimed it is must-see viewing, portraying the shocking travesty of justice as Singaporean authorities failed to take important evidence into account during the trial. Chilling and upsetting extremely powerful viewing.

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The Sapphires

23 Jul

sapphires

The year is 1968, the dresses are sparkly and the hair bouffant. Inspired by a true story, this film follows four indigenous women: sisters Julie (Jessica Mauboy), Gail (Deborah Mailman) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell), who with half-Irish cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) are plucked from the outback by talent scout (Chris O’Dowd) and sent to entertain the troops in Vietnam. It’s the trip of a lifetime, but along the way they are confronted with issues such as racism, the legacy of the Stolen Generation and the horrors of war. Director Wayne Blair, however, ensures that the grittier themes are touched on only lightly as we kick on to the next upbeat tune or romantic plot point.

Mauboy dazzles as passionate frontwoman Julie, belting out soul hits with feeling as the girls perform on stage for raucous army audiences. Newcomers Sebbens and Tapsell enliven the screen with their humour and sass, while Irish funnyman O’Dowd (The IT Crowd) meets his match in a bristling Mailman as protective older sister Gail.

sapphires_pic2While the sentimental writing occasionally hits a bum note, the sheer exuberance of the cast keeps things humming, while the spine-tingling soundtrack, including hits such as What a Man and I Heard it on the Grapevine, suits the girls’ voices perfectly.

Australian films of late seem to have rejected the ocker comedies such as Crocodile Dundee and Muriel’s Wedding, plumbing darker territory such as Snowtown’s grim bodies-in-the-barrels murders, Beautiful Kate’s incest theme, and Samson and Delilah, which while hauntingly beautiful, starkly drove home the plight of petrol sniffers. While these films have a lot to recommend them, it’s occasionally a relief to watch an Australian film that celebrates life. Filled with laugh-out-loud moments, standout scenes include the high-energy concert performances and the humorous montage as O’Dowd tries to transform the girls from awkward country singers into sultry soul stars. This feelgood film is sure to endure as a classic with wide appeal.

2012, 103 mins, PG, Hopscotch Films