: Law & Culture

Law & Culture

Law and CultureIn our Law & Culture column, you will find original works of fiction, reviews of a wide range of publications — not just conventional legal texts — as well as broader cultural forms such as films, TV shows, CDs, DVDs, art exhibitions and so on. The column links in with the Alternative Law Journal’s focus on law for the disadvantaged, human rights law and law reform.

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Stephen Gray

MAMBO DVDABC1 TV, written by Sue Smith, directed by 
Rachel Perkins,
starring Jimi Bani and Deborah Mailman,
90 mins, available on DVD, $19.99

The Mabo telemovie tells the story behind Australia’s best-known legal case. Billed as a ‘story of love, passion and justice’, it focuses on the personal life and political struggle of Eddie Koiki Mabo. It explores his relations with fellow Murray Islanders — in a case which divided Islanders as much as it did white Australia — with his European lawyers and advisers, in particular, Ron Castan, Bryan Keon-Cohen, Greg McIntyre, Henry Reynolds and Noel Loos, and with Patrick Killoran, the Queensland protector who held, and exercised, such arbitrary power over Koiki Mabo’s life. Most of all, though, it tells of his relationship with Bonita Mabo (played by Deborah Mailman), who bore the brunt of the child-rearing and family responsibilities for the many years her husband pursued his circuitous, often tortured and almost always financially-crippling path to justice in the courts.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 296



Penny Crofts

Rake DVDABC1 TV; created and produced by Richard Roxburgh, written by Peter Duncan, Andrew Knight;
starring Richard Roxburgh, Matt Day, Adrienne Pickering, Carolyn Brazier, Russell Dykstra and Kate Box;
series 1 (8 episodes) screened 2010 and series 2 (8 episodes) screened 2012; available on DVD (boxed set) $79.99

After a two-year wait, Rake has returned to the ABC. Criminal barrister Cleaver Greene, played by Richard Roxburgh, is back in court and wreaking havoc on his friends, associates and the legal system.

As a drama series, Rake succeeds. In common with so many other ‘legal’ dramas, Rake relies upon trials to introduce and resolve a story arc in one hour. However, Rake goes beyond many of these legal dramas, particularly the American flagships such as NCIS and Law and Order, through its construction and portrayal of the brilliant and brilliantly-flawed Cleaver, the rich set of characters surrounding him with their own concerns, as well as complex and ambiguous trials. In both series of Rake, the outcomes of the trials are not guaranteed, and nor is there always clarity about what the best outcome would be. The first series focused particularly on real, albeit quirky, criminal cases, whilst the second series is more political and satirical, and extends beyond the criminal into other areas of law including defamation. In the second series, the cases have, for the most part, been made up. It’s up for debate as to which series is best.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 296


A Tragedy in Two Acts: Marcus Einfeld & Teresa Brennan

Kath Hall

A Tragedy in Two ActsFiona Harari; Pan Macmillan, 2011; 272pp; $34.99 (paperback)

We can be sure that Fiona Harari’s book is not one that either of these two Australians would have wanted written about them. With Marcus Einfeld, Harari has used her journalistic background to gather facts and details that shed light on how this former Federal Court judge came to be imprisoned for perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice. For the most part, the details of this story are well-known. In 2006, Einfeld contested a $77 speeding fine by claiming that he had lent his car to Teresa Brennan, an academic from the United States. He later gave similar evidence under oath in the Local Court and signed a statutory declaration to the same effect. A journalist who was in the court on the day wrote a small story for the Daily Telegraph that was later checked by the assistant editor, at which point it became clear that Teresa Brennan had been killed in a car accident in early 2003. When confronted by the journalist, Einfeld claimed a second (ficticious) Teresa Brennan had been driving his car and later produced a 22-page statement describing the events of that day. All of this information was false and Einfeld was charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice. In sentencing him to three years imprisonment, NSW Supreme Court Justice Bruce James considered that Einfeld had committed ‘deliberate, premeditated perjury’. He found that Einfeld’s lengthy written statement had contained ‘a number of knowingly false assertions’ and concluded that there was ‘planned criminal activity’ by Einfeld in implicating another person as the driver of his car.

(2012) 37(3) AltLJ 212


The Straits

Jude McCulloch

The StraitsABC1 TV, based on an idea by Aaron Fa’Aoso as developed by Louis Nowra;
starring Brian Cox, Rena Owen, Aaron Fa’Aoso, Jimi Bani, Firass Dirani, Suzannah Bayes-Morton;
10-part series screened 2012; available on iView or DVD, $39.99.

‘Beautiful one day, deadly the next.’

The Straits premiered on the ABC in February. The 10-part series is a crime-family drama spiced up by its exotic setting in far-north Queensland, which it plays up with many ad-style shots of turquoise seas, tropical islands and lush palms. Regular plane and boat rides showcase the panorama of coast and sea. Down south — Sydney and Melbourne — is referenced only as a place of exile. The north’s unique snakes, lizards, crocodiles, birds, cane-toads, stingrays and jellyfish all feature, sometimes providing handy alternatives to the crime genre’s standard lethal weapons.

(2012) 37(3) AltLJ 213



Steven Castan

Silk, BBC TVBBC screened on ABC1 TV; series 1 & 2 
(12 episodes); written by Peter Moffatt;
starring Maxine Peake, Rupert Penry-Jones and Neil Stuke;
available on DVD, $39.99.

Your honour, Silk has just finished on ABC1, and I am not amused. There is an empty space in my Foxtel Planner on Thursday nights. I submit that the court direct that series three must be completed and filed with the ABC as soon as practicable. The show combines all of my favourite elements of recent British drama and I just cannot appear in any competent court of jurisdiction without my weekly dose of Martha, Clive and Billy et al.

(2012) 37(3) AltLJ 213


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