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True History of The Kelly Gang

True History of the Kelly Gang declares from the get go that it is not true. And yet, in some ways, it is. The events of Ned Kelly’s life have been part of cinema for nearly as long as the medium, with multiple representations, interpretations and mediations. Justin Kurzel’s film,  with a screenplay by Shaun Grant based on the novel by Peter Carey, is another of these, and not to be taken as an ‘accurate documentation’ of Ned Kelly (George McKay). Instead, it is a jagged and striking drama that tells uncomfortable truths about masculine identity, social immobility and violent oppression. Kurzel’s fragmented visual style blends the expansive and scorched Australian outback with claustrophobic interiors, where the Kelly family and others that Ned encounters, both friend and foe. Ned’s journey to outlaw legend is punctuated with effectively shocking violence as well as dark humour, resulting in a film that holds the viewer’s attention with a cruel and unflinching grip. 

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Jojo Rabbit

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The Holocaust is a challenging subject that various filmmakers take on. To make it an even greater challenge, how does one present such an event from the perspective of a child? With Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi takes a typically quirky approach, presenting not only the persecution of Jews but also Nazism and the power of nationalist populism from the position of a young protagonist, the eponymous and rather charming Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis). Jojo is a devoted member of the Hitler Youth who attends gatherings with the flavour of summer camps (with added grenades), but who also encounters alternative views from his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) as well as the cynical Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell). Jojo bolsters his belief that Nazism is cool by creating imaginary friend Adolf (Waititi), as well as absurd notions about the dangers of Jews, all of which are complicated when he encounters reality in the form of Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie). In this rather convoluted set up, Waititi veers between social commentary to slapstick humour to dark and even tragic incidents. The massive shifts in tone make for a less than satisfying experience, and Waititi does not explore in depth the fascinating ideas suggested throughout the film. However, there is genuine humour here as well as heart and soul, and while the satire is about as subtle as the moustache on Adolf’s face, Jojo Rabbit is still an interesting commentary on the appeal of populism as well as the vulnerabilities of propaganda.