Sunday, August 22, 2010

Preparations for traveling to Australia

First preparations for attending Aussiecon 4 in Melbourne involved choosing movies to watch over the preceding months.

These included Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), which holds up quite nicely, re-watching it after many years. Gorgeously photographed, it retains a sense of wonder. The story concerns the inexplicable disappearance of members of a private women's school at a remote rock-outcropping in 1900.

John Hillcoat's The Proposition (2005) is a gritty, violent film about the murderous Burns gang in the dusty Australian outback in the 1880s. It features excellent actors including Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, John Hurt, and Danny Huston. The movie is well done throughout. Not for the squeamish or faint-hearted.

Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout (1971) is, I think, the strongest film of the three, and the most open to interpretation. The simple narrative follows a white school girl and her young brother, abandoned by their father in the outback. They wander and struggle to survive. Eventually they encounter an Aboriginal boy who has the skills to survive and he helps them and travels with them. There is little dialog and the Aboriginal boy doesn't speak English. The version I saw had quite a bit of nudity, which supports the unrealized sexual tension between the school girl (Jenny Agutter) and the Aboriginal boy (David Gulpilil, who is also in The Proposition). The cinematography is exceptional. The film intelligently touches on issues of race, gender, language, culture, sexuality, survival, and death.

Preparations included listening to Midnight Oil, a rock band from Sydney. I remember buying their CD (or was it a cassette?) Beds Are Burning shortly after its 1988 release. I listened and appreciated once again the songs "Beds Are Burning" and "Truganini" (1993).

And then there are the books. I will highlight three.

Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country (2000) is both informative and funny, which is a winning combination in a travel book. It's well-written, too, and Bryson has a wonderful eye for detail.

Robert Lawlor's Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime (1991) is a mixed bag. It's quite good when describing Aboriginal culture and ceremonies, and the photos and artwork throughout the book are fascinating. On the downside, the author has his own pet theories about various issues that are best passed over lightly.

Ronald M. Berndt and Catherine H. Berndt's The Speaking Land: Myth and Story in Aboriginal Australia (1988) is packaged as a dry, academic book. It turns out to be a treasure trove of oral myths and stories told by Aboriginal story-tellers and translated into English. This book is endlessly rewarding for anyone with an interest in mythology or anthropology (or even science fiction and fantasy).

The last two books were loaned to me by Monkeyblake. Many thanks.

On the practical side, we have applied for and received three visitor visas for the three members of the Strangelove household who are traveling to Australia. We will arrive first in New Zealand (not in time for the Au Contraire science fiction convention in Wellington), then to Melbourne for Aussiecon 4, then to Adelaide, and finally to Sydney before heading for home. There will be blog posts and tweets if all goes according to plan.

Related posts:
More about Aussiecon 4
2010 Hugo Results and Reactions
Day Two: Robinson and Silverberg in Conversation
Day One: Environmental Politics in SFF

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