The Australian Dream is one of two recent documentaries about AFL legend Adam Goodes’ playing career and his his powerful anti-racism advocacy, with Ten’s The Final Quarter already making waves. Written by famed journalist Stan Grant and directed by BAFTA-winning director Daniel Gordon, the film is an inspiring (and infuriating) exploration into the depths of abuse and discrimination in our country, via the life and work of one of its biggest sporting heroes.
The opening sequence shows various Indigenous interviewees (including Goodes, his brother Brett, and Grant) declaring the greatness of our country, shown against footage of official Australia Day ceremony. While it shouldn’t be, it’s a subversive juxtaposition of sorts; indigenous leaders declaring our country’s greatness while footage of a ceremony for the very Commonwealth that tore its people apart plays against it. From here, the life of Goodes is laid out – an absent father and a family torn by alcoholism; a mother forced to move around a lot with three boys; a promising young soccer player forced to switch codes when their new hometown only had an AFL team.
Things took a turn for Goodes when he began studying for a diploma in Aboriginal Studies, trying to find a way to connect with his people while his sporting star was on the rise and he began to be looked to as a potential cultural leader. The choice dug deep into the psyche of Goodes, inspiring him to vocally denounce racism in his industry, all coming to a head in the historic moment when he had a teenage girl removed from an AFL game for racist taunts.
As Goodes’ story winds up, Grant begins to take over the documentary. He recounts both his own experiences and cites the furore in the media following Goodes’ decision to publicly call out racism as inspiration for his now famous Ethics Centre speech, in which he lashed out at the so-called Australian Dream, and our country’s unwillingness to accept the racism at its very core. While in parts this may seem like a hijack to the story, it paints a wider picture of our deeply rooted shame and its insistence to this day, while also showing how important leaders like Goodes are in bridging racial relations.
It’s interesting throughout the film that Goodes is never painted as an ‘activist’, or even as an extraordinary Australian – but merely as a member of our community who stood up to discrimination, not only for the betterment of his own people, but for the country he so loves as a whole.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Australian Dream hits cinemas on August 22nd. Get all your local screening info via Madman Films.