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Black And White
cast: Robert Carlyle, Charles Dance, Kerry Fox, Colin Friels, and Ben Mendelsohn

director: Craig Lahiff

97 minutes (15) 2002
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Prism Leisure DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Ceduna Beach, South Australia, 1958. A nine-year-old girl has been raped and murdered, and Aboriginal fairground labourer Max Stuart (David Ngoombujarra) is arrested for the crime, found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. However, lawyer David O'Sullivan (Robert Carlyle) is convinced that Max is not only innocent but that the police beat his confession out of him. A true story...

The Stuart case made national headlines, exposing deep-seated racist attitudes pervading Australian society. The case for an appeal made little headway until the Adelaide News and its owner, one Rupert Murdoch (Ben Mendelsohn) took up the challenge and pressed for a retrial. Black And White is a well-made dramatisation of the events, maybe lacking a little in visual flair but maintaining interest throughout.

Reportedly, Murdoch was pleased by Mendelsohn's on-screen portrayal, as well he might be: he comes over as an establishment-baiting crusader for justice, when his motives were likely more complex. (He probably used the case and popular opinion to gain leverage over the then Australian government.) That said, the performances are as good as you would expect from the cast, including imported stars Robert Carlyle as the out-of-his-depth defence counsel, Charles Dance as the establishment-to-the-core prosecutor with his eye on the post of Chief Justice and a knighthood, Kerry Fox as O'Sullivan's initially dubious but ultimately stalwart colleague, and particularly David Ngoombujarra as the none-too-bright but basically decent Stuart. The real Max Stuart makes an appearance at the very end.

Prism's budget release has a good anamorphic transfer and a surround-encoded Dolby digital 2.0 soundtrack. Regrettably there are no subtitles. Extras comprise the trailer, a promo for the charity Survival International, and a weblink to Prism's site.

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