Monday, June 20, 2011

Movie Review: Oranges and Sunshine

Expecting a historical drama like Rabbit Proof Fence, I was surprised to find myself in a very different, but equally powerful, story about Margaret Humphrey's discovery of the hushed-up, systematic deportation of 130,000 British children to Australia over the better part of the 20th century. Much like the Stolen Generations-- indigenous Australian children forcibly taken from their homes to be assimilated into white culture-- these children, many of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and whose parents were still alive, lived in group homes where they were sometimes abused, neglected, and denied access to education or adequate housing. Officials apparently believed they were doing the right thing by separating children from seemingly dead-end lives in England and giving them a clean slate in a country where "the sun always shines and you pick oranges for your breakfast every day."

While the film offers snippets of these children's stories, it focuses mostly on Humphrey's struggle to help victims discover their identities, find their families, and support one another, in addition to seeking acknowledgement of wrongdoing from the British government and resources to correct past wrongs from the offending missions, churches, and non-governmental organizations. She faced death threats, attempted battery, mental breakdown, and hateful media attention to reunite thousands of families and eventually bring the situation to the light it desperately deserved.

The film itself is tense, involved, and heartbreaking, taking its time to wind you deep into an understanding of the situation's haunting gravity. Unlike a feverish and emotional tearjerker, the film leaves you dry-eyed but pained, with a heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach. This is an especially insightful film for public servants and all those who seek justice, particularly those of us from privileged backgrounds. This depiction of Margaret Humphrey's work is no holds barred-- it shows the consequences of choosing the cause over family, the emotional hell caused by her obsession with the project, and how irreconcilable unfairness and inequality can be.

No comments:

Post a Comment