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politics | John McDonald

politics

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Defying Empire

August 9, 2017

During the Howard years we were constantly hearing about the Culture Wars – a term borrowed from the United States, pertaining to the battle between conservative and liberal values. In Australia the conflict became fixated on whether this continent had been taken by force from its original inhabitants, and what reparations were due. It was … More


Where to Invade Next

April 7, 2016

Donald Trump says he will make America great again. Michael Moore has plenty of suggestions about where to start. In the fanciful opening to Where to Invade Next, it’s not Trump that asks Moore for advice, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are concerned that they’ve bungled every engagement since 1945. They need a … More


Truth

December 10, 2015

For those of us who haven’t grown up watching Dan Rather anchoring the CBS News, his portrayal in Truth is a little hard to swallow. Played by Robert Redford as a secular saint, Rather comes across a beacon of moral purity in the midst of a media swamp. Not only is he the ‘grand old … More


Citizenfour

February 20, 2015

It’s a coincidence that a wayward comedy such as The Interview is sharing cinema bills with two other movies with strongly political themes: Laura Poitras’s documentary, Citizenfour, which gives us a close-up view of US whistleblower extraordinaire, Edward Snowden; and Rosewater, which tells the real-life story of Maziar Bahari, a journalist imprisoned by the Iranians … More


Hannah Arendt

March 15, 2014

The jollities and distortions of The Monuments Men would not have impressed Hannah Arendt, the German-Jewish intellectual who wrote an impressively forensic account of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, whom some describe as the architect of the Final Solution. Neither would they go down well with Margarethe von Trotta, who has made a long line … More


Yoko Ono

November 30, 2013

For an artist who has devoted her career to peace, love and understanding, Yoko Ono’s press call at the Museum of Contemporary Art was unpleasantly regimented. Journalists and photographers were herded from room to room like errant sheep, and it was made clear that questions about John Lennon would not be welcome. The only problem … More


The Iron Lady

January 14, 2012

There’s more than a hint of irony in the title of this film, because the Iron Lady looks decidedly rusty in her old age. Although a bio pic of Margaret Thatcher is inevitably a political drama, this movie might be best described as a study of dementia. Most of our time is spent with an … More


German idols

November 5, 2011

In Germany, Ai Weiwei is the new Joseph Beuys. I arrived at this conclusion in Berlin, after seeing an exhibition of film footage of Joseph Beuys in Japan, at the Hamburger Bahnhof; and a show of 220 photos by Ai Weiwei, at the Martin-Gropius Bau. I’ve been in Deutschland for a conference on the Chinese … More


Din Q. Lê: Erasure, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair 2011

August 27, 2011

It was astonishing to learn that in a recent opinion poll Australians rated border protection as a more important issue than health, education, transport or housing. This is one of those statistical miracles that testify to our growing sense of social paranoia and the power of political scare campaigns. The facts are well known but … More


The last days of the Caponian empire

August 9, 2011

What a deathly year it has been for artists! In quick succession we have lost Cy Twombly, Lucian Freud, and now John Hoyland. The latter was especially disturbing, as I had just contributed a catalogue essay to his exhibition with Charles Nodrum in Melbourne. Logically there is nothing surprising about someone dying at a ripe … More


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