TV programs worth watching
Sun July 6 — Sat July 12
by Tom Pearson Henri Cartier-Bresson is truly a "man of lights", in every sense of the phrase. At 92 years of age, the eye and word of the master photographer are still very acute. The Masterpiece documentary Henri Cartier- Bresson: Just Plain Love (Masterpiece, Sunday 9.30pm, SBS) profiles this most prestigious photographer, a rare testimony on one who accepted the challenge, for once, to stand in front of the camera. He coined the phrase "the decisive moment" to describe what he tries to achieve in his pictures, which are mostly shot with a minimum of preparation and a maximum spontaneity. Born in 1908, Henri Cartier-Bresson studied painting with Andri Lhote in the late 1920s and made a serious commitment to photography in the early 1930s. He returned to Spain in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War to make a documentary film on hospitals in Republican Spain. In 1940 he was captured by the Germans, and he spent three years in prisoner-of-war camps before escaping. He then worked with the Paris underground, and filmed a documentary on the homecoming of French prisoners of war. In 1946, Cartier-Bresson returned to the United States to complete a "posthumous" exhibition which the Museum of Modern Art had begun in the belief that he had disappeared in the war. With Robert Capa, David Seymour and others he founded the renowned photography agency Magnum in 1947. In 1966 he left Magnum, and has since devoted himself to drawing and painting. In 1973 the Menil Foundation of Houston commissioned Cartier-Bresson to go through his lifework and make a choice of his best photographs. Complete sets of the 385 photographs that he selected are in the collection of the Menil Foundation, Houston; the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and the Fine Arts University of Osaka, Japan. "To photograph is, in the same instant and in a fraction of a second, to recognize a fact and to organize rigorously the visually perceived forms that express and signify this fact ... to place head, heart and eye along the same line of sight", says Henri Cartier-Bresson. When the Taliban was ousted in 2001, the women of Afghanistan who had all suffered under house arrest for five years believed their living nightmare was over but uncertainty remains. Canadian journalist Sally Armstrong reports on the lives of four women and one young girl as they pursue their dreams of liberation in the CBC documentary Daughters of Afghanistan (Tuesday, July 8 at 8.30pm, SBS). Armstrong, author of Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women of Afghanistan, was one of the first writers to document the stories of Afghan women during the Taliban's regime. A year after the US began their bombing and ten months after the naming of a provisional government Armstrong returns to find out how women's lives have changed since the Taliban left power and looks at what still needs to be done. The documentary begins with Dr Sima Samar, a woman who thumbed her nose at the Taliban. She risked death by defying the Taliban's demand that she close her schools for girls and health clinics for women. Recently appointed as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Women's Affairs in the new government, she takes us inside the corridors of power where she is forced to walk a political tightrope. We also meet Soghra a single mother of seven, whose harrowing tale of survival is both inspiring and shocking; Hamida, a gutsy school principal who is determined to lead her students to powerful positions within the community; and Camellah, the quintessential Afghan woman, who knows instinctively that the rules of her country make her a sex slave to her husband. And finally Lima, a young girl who has already lost her childhood to the war that ravished her village. How many Australians would know that the first Australian representative sporting team to travel overseas was black? It was the 1860s and 13 Aboriginal cricketers forged a place for themselves in the history of Australia — but an opportunity to harmonise black and white relations was lost. A Fine Body of Gentlemen (True Stories, Thursday 8.10pm SBS) looks at the three-year odyssey of these sportsmen, their love of the game of cricket and at the white men who encouraged their skills. Their great adventure saw them challenge and play most teams in the western districts of Victoria and then go on to play and win in Melbourne and Sydney against the best white teams of the day. In 1868, the team travelled to England and were feted by the English aristocracy, played and dined with the best English cricket teams and were lionised by some of the English press. The team became renowned for their style, skill, attitude and colourful personality and presence both on and off the field. On their return to Australia the team was confronted by the introduction of laws forbidding Aborigines to travel out of their designated areas without written government approval. The game has since withered and almost died as a sport taken up by Aboriginal people and today there is not one Aboriginal cricket club. A Fine Body of Gentlemen features interviews with descendants of English cricketers the Marquis of Anglesey, the Viscount Downe, Major Crofton of Her Majesty's Household Brigade (members of which played the Aboriginal team at Lords) and descendants of two of the black cricketers, Vicky and Ivor Cousins and Jack Kennedy, great-great-grandson of the legendary Dick-a-Dick. Also featured are interviews with descendants of sheepstation owners, on whose properties the Aboriginal players first learned the game. Rare and fascinating archival photographs, etchings, paintings and artefacts add insight to an almost forgotten event in 19th century Australian history. The Demon Fault (About Us, SBS, 8.30pm Friday) is Elizabeth Tadic's fascinating documentary on the relationships between small communities and their heritage, and big companies. For many years stories have existed of a curse on the gold in the Timbarra Plateau of Tenterfield, Northern NSW, but now a gold mine has commenced operation in the pristine wilderness and the community is thrown into chaos as land owners, activists, local leaders and the mining company commence war over whether the mine will continue operation. Bronwyn Petrie, a landowner on the doorsteps of the mine, supports its activities in a drought stricken region. She takes a hard line with the protesting greenies and actively campaigns to keep them off her land. However, along with an extraordinary twist in events her allegiances are suddenly changed. The activists she campaigns against are engaged in their own renegade protests including road blockades and reconnaissance missions into surrounding bushland. Karen Reilly has taken time out of her environmental studies course to set up base camp and begin the protest. Eventually, faced with the futility of the cause, she abandons it and heads home. As the battle ensues in the forests of Tenterfield, scruffy bush lawyer Al Oshlack has taken the fight to the law courts of NSW. In his pin-stripe suit, sneakers and ponytail, he is prosecuting various parties for the poisoning of waterways and destruction of habitat and sacred Aboriginal land. Meanwhile, another local landowner, Peter Stanford, is driving around doing his own water testing and fighting to preserve the precious resource. Intimidation, double-dealing and activist protests slow the mine's operation until torrential rain finally shuts it down. But now the surrounding area is threatened with a flood of cyanide deposits and Bronwyn Petrie's cattle are threatened with poisoning. Another mining company buys the site but operations are not recommenced.