The Guardian July 2, 2003


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.

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