Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
Thornton takes us on a very personal, very Australian investigation into the star sign we have printed onto our country’s flag. You can’t copyright a star, but you can copyright the star’s symbol, and it’s a symbol often associated with Australia. Thornton breaks down and explores the significance of the Southern Cross, divulging into its importance not just to the general public of Australia, but for Indigenous Australians as well. He travels the country, paying a visit to a number of members from his own tribe, amongst others. The Southern Cross is so much more than just a star sign, and this movie tells us why.
Thornton himself is a powering on-screen presence. He’s armed with a fierce, intelligent sense of humour; delivered in a way only he knows how to do. His latest documentary is an absolute riot. It’s full of quick cuts, rock music, montages and various stop motions. He makes a socially and ethnically charged documentary about a very touchy subject so much fun to watch. One animated sequence sees a miniature homemade boat sailing in on sand, met by a stick man Aboriginal holding a sign that says “fuck off, we’re full.” It’s dry, crude and so unexpected. He could’ve made a self-serious film, but instead chooses to mix it with high quality entertainment.
It’s a style that works, but more appropriately belongs on a TV movie, which is what this documentary has a possibility of becoming. There have been murmurs of a small cinema release, but WE DON’T NEED A MAP will find most of its viewership at home. The film will most likely be coming to TVs all across Australia, and when that happens, the style will be more fitting. It’s made in a way that’s reminiscent of early morning animal documentaries. They worked for what they were trying to do, and the same can be said here, but it doesn’t make the cinema experience a necessity. Often, it comes across as not being worth paying to see in theaters. This’ll make the at-home viewing even more rewarding.
One of the downsides to a lot of the subject matter relates back to how deep and thorough the filmmakers go. Everyone’s trying to give as much information as they possibly can, and it’s very informative, but you can’t just walk into this film without any previous knowledge of the subject. You’ll fall behind. Rarely is any screen time dedicated to explaining the backstory of certain events, the Cronulla riots included. It’s presumed you’re already up to speed with the past fifteen or so years of Australian history, and if not, good luck navigating the movie. I knew the general gist of most of the backstory, but even still, there were times where I fell behind.
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