Australia, 1986, 90 minutes, Colour.
Bob Barrett, Corinne Bassett, Evette Basset, John Bell, Paul Chubb.
Directed by Stephen Wallace.
Hunger is a powerful Australian telemovie written by celebrated playwright Louis Nowra. It resembles in theme his telemovie, Displaced Persons (directed by Geoffrey Nottage).
The film focuses on an authentic story about a Rumanian migrant who escaped from his country, came to Australia, fulfilled the regulations and then wanted to bring his wife to Australia. There is bureaucratic red tape from the part of the Rumanians (with John Bell callous as the Rumanian Consul), Brendan Higgins is very good as the tormented migrant who goes on a hunger strike to make his point. The film also shows attitudes of the Department of Foreign Affairs officials and Legal Aid representatives. The material is familiar - but is presented strongly and emotionally.
Direction is by Steven Wallace: Stir, Love Letters from Teralba Road, Mail Order Bride, For Love Alone.
1. Interesting and entertaining telemovie? impact for the Australian audience? For audiences with European background? of Soviet Bloc countries?
2. The contribution of Louis Nowra, his theatre background? The authentic story? The contribution of Steve Wallace as director?
3. The Sydney locations? The glimpses of the comfortable and affluent Australian way of life? Carefree? The contrast with Rumania? floods, colour photography, lighting? The range of the score as background for the moods?
4. Authentic story? Plausible treatment? Intellectual treatment? Emotional?
5. The title - for freedom, the hunger strike? Hunger in action and as witness to values, and causes?
6. The Rumanian background: Mikhail and his life, angers, love for Ileana, talking about escaping, frustrations, the stances of the in laws and the father belonging to the Communist Party, his love for Ileana, her work as a translator, his plans, not telling his wife? The escape - and the various flashbacks highlighting it and its dangers? The effect on Illeana left in Rumania? Letters and phone calls? The phone being cut? Documents? The stances of Ileana's parents towards her - cutting her off? Her hearing the news about the hunger strike? Going to a friend to get the money, frustrations, the airport sequence, the news of the death of her husband, her taking a stand and wanting to leave Rumania, to see the land that had drawn her husband? The stances on Soviet Bloc countries? On democracy and totalitarian governments?
7. The Consul, his severity, political stances, his bias, attacked, the write-up in 'Truth' newspaper? The discussions with Sue and the pressure from the Australian government? His dinner with her, his liking for Australia and its comforts? The final pressure on him because of the hunger strike?
8. Mikhail in Australia: his memories and their effect, his cause, melancholy? Taxi-driving and the encounters with his passengers, his background in training as an eye-doctor? The friends in the taxi service, the wife of the manager and her help? - His drinking, grief, his dancing - and his co-driver's looking askance?
9. Decision to get petitions signed? His going to the immigration official, helping him with his eye trouble, the various visits, clashes? The cutting off of the phone? His desperation? Driving the old man to the country - with his winnings, looking at the desert and the drought, the view of Australia?
10. The decision about the demonstration? his arrest? The influence of Foreign Affairs? The irony of its being seen on the television by the old man? The Legal Aid man and his attitudes, talk, advice? Susan and her talk, apologies, the dinner, sharing friendship, the soccer match, his visit to her home, the sexual encounter and his harsh comment on his emotional attitudes and masturbation? The continued demonstration, the hunger strike, the effect, his growing weakness? The variety of people who came and asked, who signed? The comfort of the Legal Aid man, Suzan coming, Robyn Archer singing the country and western song? weakness? The struggle to leave and his going into the underground station, hospital, death? The news that he had been left the farm by the old man? His life and death as witness to his beliefs?
10. The portrait of Ileana, her love for her husband, the scorn of her parents, her relationship with the friend who lent her the money, bureaucracy, the final news, her finally going to the Australian property?
11. Susan as a career woman, her lavish home, the dinner, outings-with Mikhail, the soccer match, the sexual encounter? Her visiting him on strike? The pressure on the Consul?
12. The Legal Aid man and his attitudes, rough, help, ideas, demonstration, support, the pressure on Foreign Affairs?
13. Taxi-driving, the drivers, their comradeship? the range of passengers?
14. The focus on the Australian lifestyle and its affluence, plenty, enjoyment, the beauty of the land, its harshness? Themes of freedom, democracy and totalitarianism? Government intervention? The right to protest? To die? The comment that in Rumania it was death to whisper; in Australia you could shout and be ignored?