BOOK REVIEW: PAMELA HART – A LETTER FROM ITALY

 

A Letter from Italy is a romantic story that isn’t just ruled by its heart. It’s a novel inspired by Louise Mack, the first female war correspondent who worked during the First World War. It’s a book that shows how a determined and strong journalist negotiates the trials and tribulations of being a woman in a male-dominated industry and also through a time of tumultuous change.

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FILM REVIEW: AMANDA KNOX (NETFLIX)

amandaknox

 

The trailers for the documentary Amanda Knox (which debuts on Netflix in late September) questions whether the eponymous star did or didn’t commit the murder of British exchange student, Meredith Kercher. The crime that occurred in Perugia Italy in 2007 had an investigation that had more holes than a pile of Swiss cheese. This documentary film focuses on a number of the key players associated with the case and ultimately throws up some very serious questions with respect to the investigation.

The film is directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn and is written by Matthew Hamachek and McGinn. The film took over five years to assemble and is like those similar series, Making A Murdererand The Jinx in that it looks to satisfy the public’s urge for true crime stories. The key difference here is that Amanda Knox’s one goes for a lean 90 minutes but it is apparent that this could have benefited by being covered in more depth.

The filmmakers offer some very frank interviews with Amanda Knox and her boyish co-defendant ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, an aspiring Sherlock Holmes-like Italian prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini and the front-page seeking English journalist, Nick Pisa. These interviews – especially with the two former individuals – are quite sobering and are a stark contrast to the footage of the media circus that ensued during the trial. The coverage was a maelstrom where Knox was tyrannised by her own nickname, “Foxy Knoxy” and dubbed a “Femme fatale” and a sexual deviant because of how she responded to the allegations. One can’t help but think of Knox being treated like Lindy Chamberlain because both women did not respond as society believed they should have after both tragedies.

Amanda Knox goes through the different trial and acquittals that took place. It also culminates with the final exoneration of Knox and Sollecito in 2015. The Kercher family are represented very briefly here in newsreel footage. A glaring omission is the lack of interviews with the other neighbours living at Via della Pergola 7 at the time.

The documentary describes the swift investigation by the police where law enforcement officials faced increased pressure from the media who were hell-bent on quick answers. The film also looks at the evidence found at the murder site including the alleged murder weapon and other information that come to light during the course of the investigation. Perhaps the most chilling scenes in the film is where Knox looks boldly at the audience and says, “Either I’m a psychopath in sheep’s clothing or I’m you.”

In Amanda Knox the eponymous character can be quite cold and aloof in her responses but the film shows that that alone does not make her a murderer. The series serves to shine a light on this notorious case and it will have us questioning what really happened that night. It will also have us thinking about how the investigation was bungled, especially when you consider that a lot of circumstantial evidence was used to initially sway the results. TheAmanda Knox documentary is ultimately a well-made, fascinating and short film about the infamous murder case and a reminder of what can happen when you are alone in a foreign land and subjected to a trial by media.

Originally published on 30 September 2016 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/film-review-netflixs-amanda-knox-usa-2016-shines-a-light-on-trial-by-media/

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DVD REVIEW: WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? (AUSTRALIAN EDITION) SERIES 7

Fusion TIFF File

Who Do You Think You Are? is such a personal TV series you almost feel like you’re sitting in someone’s lounge room having a cuppa. The Australian edition is modelled on the original one from the U.K. Both shows see prominent personalities retracing aspects of their family tree/history. It’s ultimately a fascinating program and in Australia’s case it can occasionally be a multicultural one.

The program is now in its seventh series and once again you see celebrities playing detectives to the lives of themselves and their ancestors. There are stories about challenges and struggles and these form a rich tapestry illuminating and celebrating identity and culture. It’s also the kind of program that can make you laugh and cry in equal measure.

The first episode of the seventh series stars the actor Geoffrey Rush who is in for a few surprises. He’d previously figured his family were all a bunch of farmers but in reality his German ancestors were part of a long dynasty of musicians. Toni Collette has easily one of the most complicated family histories out of the lot. Her grandma died shortly after giving birth to her mother’s sister, which meant her grandfather would abandon his children. Then there’s her paternal grandfather whose identity remains unknown.

This series is very entertaining and educational. Dawn Fraser learns she had a South American freedom fighter in her family while TV chef Luke Nguyen discovers there are other refugees among his ancestors (and not just his immediate family). Ray Martin gets back to his Aboriginal roots while Peter Rowsthorn (Kath & Kim) learns about the convicts in his family’s past. Greig Pickhaver (HG Nelson) and actor David Wenham can look with pride at their ancestor’s roles in the Australian Defence Force and in the World Wars.

Who Do You Think You Are? is one intimate program that is a fascinating watch and leap through the history books. The stories are universal and relatable as they show how people overcame various trials and tribulations in order to succeed. In all, this is one revealing and incredible observational documentary that holds up a mirror for every day Australians to gaze upon and celebrate in all its glory.

Originally published on 24 November 2015 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/think-series-7-dvd-review/

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DVD REVIEW: KIDS ON SPEED?

Sydney, AUSTRALIA: Essential Media, Kids on Speed(Photo by Sabine Albers)

 

Kids On Speed? is a factual and fly-on-the-wall series which follows five children who are suspected to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It’s a powerful and revealing show that looks at this much-maligned, misunderstood and stigmatised illness that has been met with controversy (due to its resulting in more children being medicated). This documentary attempts to inform and debunk some myths associated with this disorder. It also manages to cover a lot of ground but it could have been a longer series and a little bit more comprehensive in detail.

The series is written, directed and produced by Marc Radomsky. It follows four families who have reached the ends of their tethers with their hyperactive, misbehaving and unruly children. They all agree to take part in a nine-week, multidisciplinary program where psychological behaviour therapies are combined with learning strategies and medication (if it is deemed necessary). One thing this series fails to describe is the impact the child’s diet is possibly having on their underlying condition.

The first episode introduces the children. Seth is an impulsive six year old who has young parents and his father Ryan was diagnosed with ADHD when he was the same age as his son. There are the siblings, Emily (11) and Samuel (6) who come from a large family and who constantly fight, scream and egg each other on. James is an emotionally immature, ten year old who has a terrible temper and violent streak and Corey (7) is now home-schooled after he threatened to hurt the kids at school (as well as himself). This initial episode covers the fortnight that was dedicated to assessing and diagnosing the children using evidence from home and at school and against the recognised diagnostic criteria.

The experts leading this program are: psychologist Prof. Mark Dadds, educational specialist, Dr. Samantha Hornery and paediatrician and ADHD Expert, Prof. Michael Kohn. After working together and with the children for two weeks they diagnose Seth with severe Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), mild ADHD and possible sleep deprivation while Samuel and Emily have ADHD which has most likely developed into ODD. Corey has ADHD, ODD, severe anxiety and possible autism. James is the most difficult child to diagnose but they initially think he has emotional immaturity and ODD.

This documentary series reveals how the parents have to be retrained in the areas of discipline, rewards and praise as well as being consistent with the child and a united force with each other. In some cases, they see some very positive results and this is often through a combination of behavioural strategies and medication. An issue with the series is that there is no postscript to describe what happened (including any further successes or relapses) following the conclusion of filming.

Ultimately, Kids On Speed? is a challenging social experiment that is very honest and revealing and will no doubt resonate with parents and friends of children who have ADHD and/or ODD. It’s not a definitive documentary by any means and it could have been longer (three hours seems short to condense five children’s lives for nine weeks). Despite this, it is still a thought-provoking, engaging and informative analysis of the trials and tribulations of a complex disorder, whose cause is not yet known and one that is only becoming increasingly more prevalent in society.

 

Originally published on 08 September 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/09/08/tv-dvd-review-kids-on-speed-australia-2014/

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