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Australian Film Festival
Ian Mitchell

On Wednesday 16th March the 9th annual Australian film festival opened at the Khudozhestvenny Theatre in Arbat square with a reception and the showing of the film Lantana, a psychological thriller that was critically acclaimed on release and heralded as one of Australia’s best films of recent times. The Australian film industry has been on the rise since the 1970s and, alongside a clutch of modern films, the Festival aired one of the classics which put the country on the map in the first place: Breaker Morant. This is a still-relevant tale of an Australian volunteer who fought for the British Empire in the Boer War (South Africa, 1899-1902) and committed what were, technically, war crimes by killing Boer prisoners. But he had probably been ordered to do. But Morant showed no reluctance to obey an arguably illegal command. He was not a clear victim of British Army machinations. His defence went beyond the unwritten and never subsequently disclosed (nothing new there) orders, allegedly from Lord Kitchener himself, as there was clear provocation. After the Boers had killed the brother of the woman Morant was engaged to be married to, they mutilated the body and went around wearing his uniform. The film explored, through the story of the subsequent court martial (and eventual execution) of Morant, the whole issue of war crimes and warfare against irregular “partisans” (today, read: terrorists) who are not in uniform and do not always themselves observe the rules of warfare (such as they are). Breaker Morant was a thought-provoking film, as well as being beautifully made. The Russian I took to see it was still talking about it a week later.

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