TV programs Worth Watching
Sun June 30 ~ Sat July 6
The exploitation of super-cheap labour in Fiji gets little coverage here in Australia. Fiji's promotion as a tropical paradise for tourists masks the hard reality of class relations. The documentary In The Name of Growth (SBS 3.30pm Sunday) looks at the operations of the Lavaca tuna cannery PAFCO, particularly the experience of its women workers, "the unsung heroes of development in Fiji". The women skin, clean, cut and can Pacific tuna for the export markets of Europe and Canada. Examined in the context of globalisation and the role of Lavaca in Fiji's colonial and post-colonial history and local political upheavals, In The Name Of Growth highlights the contradictions between the World Bank's economic prescription and the traditional values and needs-based local economy. In the 1940s in Hollywood Gene Kelly was the king of dance. As a choreographer and instructor at his own dance school he was strongly influenced by the new trends on the Broadway stage at that time. He choreographed, starred in and directed a number of films, including On The Town, Singin' In The Rain and It's Always Fair Weather. His first major film success came when he was 30 and ended 10 years later. His style, a down-to-earth athleticism, was responsible for creating a whole new approach to film musicals. While Gene Kelly: Anatomy of a Dancer (ABC 7.30pm Sunday) tends to go into the celeb/personality a little ("charisma, creativity, volatile temper"), Kelly's ideological leanings were actually more toward the regular guy in the street. "I didn't want to move or cat like a rich man. I wanted to dance in a pair of jeans", he said. Neanderthal (SBS 8.30 Sunday), is a two-part documentary that uses a mixture of drama, prosthetics, 3D animation and morphing techniques to tell the story of the rise of one of the most successful species ever to have walked the earth. Neanderthals dominated what is now the European continent for 250,000 years. On a landscape ravaged by ice ages, and stalked by wild animals, theirs is a story of incredible survival. This first episode examines Neanderthal childbirth and child rearing, hunting expeditions, the use of fire, the division of labour and clan politics. The Howard Government is committed to the complete dispossession of Indigenous Australians: history, land, culture are all for the chopping block as far Howard, Costello, Ruddock and co are concerned. But people persist, and resist. The National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA), Australia's premier Indigenous dance college, is one such example. NAISDA, which exists on the sweat and commitment of its staff and students in the face of dwindling Federal funding, is the subject of Reality Bites: Dreamtime To Dance (ABC 8pm Tuesday). In the first episode of the series, which documents a year in the life of the college, the management has just received a damning report from the Federal Government. The general manager, Robert Jackson, has to break the news to the staff, who have not had a pay rise in nine years, that the Government intends to cut the college's budget. The series follows this unique institution over the course of 12 months: the struggle to raise funds, individuals members dealing with the past, the antics of the students, the traditional tour when city kids find their Indigenous roots, and the big The End Of Year Show. Night and Day (ABC 6pm Tuesday to Thursday) is a curious program. Labelled wrongly as a soap opera, it has a sharp edge beneath its smooth surface. It began a couple of months back by introducing as narrator a Barbie-doll- pretty school girl (an actual doll becomes part of the plot) called Jane, and her next door neighbour school chum Frankie, who are both about to turn 16. Jane narrates the show with such heavy cynicism you assume it's an adolescent put-on: a teen problem drama just right for the 6pm timeslot. That is, until in the first episode, when alone for a moment with Frankie's dad, Jane suddenly kisses him fully and passionately on the mouth, and says with a knowing smile, "Now it's legal." A couple of episodes later Jane disappears in suspicious circumstances, and the search for her becomes the centre around which all the characters interact. That gives the gist of it — watch a couple of episodes and things will fall into place. I guess that's its soapie element. Most people will recall the television footage and the photo image from it of a Palestinian father and his son caught in a hail of Israeli bullets. The 12-year-old boy, Mohammed al-Dura, was shot to death on that day, September 30, 2000, in the Gaza Strip. Which brings me to this week's Cutting Edge: Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura (SBS 8.30pm Tuesday). A documentary which claims to "attempt to uncover the truth of the matter", it asks, "Were the Israelis guilty?". I have not seen the documentary, but the SBS publicity guide informs me of the following: its producer, Esther Shapira, wants to know if the French television channel that filmed the incident released all the video footage; why no autopsy was performed; why there was no ballistic report on the bullets that killed Mohammed; from which direction were they fired? Mohammed's was one of the many of Palestinian civilians murdered by the brutal Israeli military. The apologists for Israel's atrocities are ceaseless, their justifications and rationalisation given wide coverage by the mass media. Whatever its details, this program clearly intends to perpetuate the lie that there is equal blame on both sides. Occupation, oppression and genocide on the part of the Israelis, and retaliation by Palestinian freedom fighters against the most powerful military machine in the Middle East: there is your balance of forces. The first episode of the second series of documentaries Australia by Numbers (SBS 8pm Thursday) is about the Prahran Swimming Pool, in inner city Melbourne. When Jim Harley opened the pool in 1963 he had a vision of a place where everyone, no matter who they were, would feel welcome. And as he watched the construction nearby of housing commission flats he realised the pool would also be part of a backyard for locals. The atmosphere of the pool, so warm and welcoming, is a credit to 38 years of hard work by Jim Harley. Other places visited in the series are Nannup, in Western Australia, Sydney CBD, South Hobart, Adaminaby NSW, Rockhampton, Kumarangk (Hindmarsh Island) in South Australia, and Boggo Road in Brisbane. The series is about people, ordinary/extraordinary. The Kumarangk episode, for example, looks at its significance to the Ngarrindjeri women who have fought so hard to defend the area from environmental damage and the greed of developers. Sydney CBD is seen through the eyes of three bicycle couriers, Adaminably about the people of the rural town that was flooded over by Lake Eucumbene, the largest of the dams created by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.