What is it about Australian movies? Ever since Mad Max, the Australian movie industry has tended to make movies that are weird, bleak, depressing and dark: Strictly Ballroom was strange; Priscilla Queen of the Desert was odd; Picnic at Hanging Rock was beautiful but dark; Saw, revolting ; Samson and Delilah might may have been a wake up call, but desperately bleak; Animal Kingdom may be much closer to the reality of organized crime than glitzy TV shows, but again despairing; and the latest happy Aussie movie to the list, Snowtown, seems to have redefined darkness and despair. Sure we can all remember a few exceptions, like Man from Snowy River, Babe, and in more recent times, Australia, but overall, Australian movies seem determined to confront, confuse and depress their audiences.
By contrast there is an Australian documentary currently in limited release nationally, that is surprisingly warm, positive and strangely encouraging. The documentary follows a girls' private school community in Sydney, MLC, as they prepare and execute their biennial music extravaganza. The film makers, who were parents of a student at the school, have cleverly embedded themselves in school staffrooms, classrooms and in the corridors of the school, as well as being present behind the scenes at the concert's stunning venue in the Sydney Opera House. Some 270 hours of filming is creatively edited down to 95 minutes, telling the 'warts and all' story of how this school works as one, in order to make rather beautiful music.
Mrs Carey’s Concert is very much a story of the impact of one forceful, determined and passionate school teacher, who still struggles with self doubt and a messy staffroom. But it is also the story of what happens when young women are challenged to excel at music which is difficult and, at times, culturally and emotionally a long way from their experience. MLC reflects something of the cultural diversity of modern Sydney, so the heroine of the story is a young woman with a painful past from a Chinese background, who is very much a young Aussie with attitude and convictions. Every story, of course, must have its villains and that group in Year 10, featuring Iris, find co-operating with the school authorities, at times, too much to bear. They also amusingly demonstrate how easy it is to confuse a middle-aged teacher by adjusting her computer settings while she is out of the room.
This is not gripping, compelling, gritty drama, but rather a pleasant story of a slice of Australian life that many will find inspiring and uplifting.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” Philippians 4: 8