Monday, March 2, 2009

Violence and The Combination

Barely a month since news about a stabbing in a US cinema during a screening of My Blood Valentine we now have stories breaking ( over the weekend regarding Australia film The Combination and a couple of punch ups that erupted at screenings. While the My Bloody Valentine incident was a one off by a frustrated security guard, I wonder if we'd be getting different responses with questions of violence on film reflected by violence in life if it had been committed by a patron. The Combination on the other hand is a film about Lebanese-Australians and gang violence in Sydney's western suburbs. A couple of incidents over the weekend has led to cinema chain Greater Union pulling the film from its theatres in New South Wales...

One has to question this decision by Greater Union as being extremely reactionary and furthermore wonder about whether any time was taken over the implications of this decision. Obviously such incidents are ugly and unwanted, but there's more than a little irony in the fact that a film about prejudice and stereotypes has led to such a media storm see (The Buck Stops 'ere summary) considering we have fights breaking out in every pub in Australia every night and I'm yet to hear a peep about prohibition (see bottom of page re: 2am Lockouts).

The Combination is a violent film although screenwriter George Basha is quoted saying “this film doesn't glorify violence, doesn't glorify gangs; it's actually the opposite.” This may not be entirely true considering the film's violent conclusion (certainly being in a gang doesn't come across that cool), but what is suspect is the precise thinking behind the decision at Greater Union to pull the film from all its screens in NSW (a decision it's considering recanting). I'm sure staff safety is a concern for management, but does Greater Union really think that this film's patrons are more likely to be so incensed by its content that we might see riots breaking out up and down George Street? What does this say about the Greater Union's management's perception of The Combination's target audience.

As Basha is further quoted in The Australian: "You've got 300 or 400 people in the cinema, and then you've got three or four kids, 15 and 16 years old, making a nuisance... The cinema is saying they were smoking in the cinema, and there were fights breaking out ... I've seen fights happen. I'm pretty sure those films didn't get closed down."

There's a much bigger discussion to be had here, but I wanted to post these quick thoughts before I get on with my day whilst the tabloids set about exploiting Australian fears over some sort of implied dark danger lurking within Sydney's western suburbs. The Combination was always an interesting film to me as a non-Aussie and for reasons unrelated to the violence within, now it's becoming positively fascinating.

You can read my review of The Combination here,
Read my interview with director David Field here.

Watch the trailer here:

UPDATE: Re: 'peeps about prohibition', it has been pointed out to me that while 2am lockouts are not quite the same thing as prohibition they are a form of restriction on drinking freedom.


Daniel Crichton-Rouse said...

What can I say? We live in a conservative society. This country sickens me sometimes.

It's a surprise to hear that GU have taken such a drastic action, but at the same time, it doesn't suprise me. The head of the company has probably never stepped (an Armani-adorned) foot outside his route between mansion in Vaucluse to swanky offices, wherever the fuck they are, but I'm guessing it's east or due north of the inner west.

GU don't see film as art or commentary, but as money. And if screening The Combination is going to scare the rednecks (the majority of our population) away from their cinemas then of course they'll stop screening it. Because they're gutless. GU might as well show Today Tonight before screenings.

Anonymous said...

I think GU's action is over the top and discriminatory. I am sure if there was a similar incident regarding another film on the northern beaches it would have passed without comment. Lets vote with our feet and give GU a miss next time we want to see a film in the futre.