Returning Home Mourning and Tragedy

The final section of the film is primarily a documentation of the family's renewed mourning and the re-burial of Mabo's body on his island home. Here, the narration becomes even more intimate as Graham explains that after the attack on the grave he had no choice than to continue filming. From this point onward we see that the film is very much a 'work of mourning' it repeats the scene of death as a way of working through it and inevitably moving beyond it. But it is also in this final 'act',...

The History in the Name

So far I have argued that the film's attempt to close the gap between name and face by offering us an image of Mabo as a tragic hero inadvertently re-produces the violence of de-facement. Or to put it slightly differently, as a response to an actual defacement the film's deployment of techniques of faciality becomes a form of textual de-facement the film gives 'Mabo' a face only to render it the face of a ghost, a death mask. But there is, however, another way of seeing the film that involves...

The Face of the Beloved

In One-Way Street Benjamin reflects on what is possibly the most intense instance of facial vision the face of the beloved.xvi He writes He who loves is attached not only to the 'faults' of the beloved, not only to the whims and weaknesses of a woman. Wrinkles in the face, moles, shabby clothes, and a lopsided walk bind him more lastingly and relentlessly than any beauty. This has long been known. And why If the theory is correct that feeling is not located in the head, that we sentiently...

Disaster Terrorism and Television

Fast-forwarding from the ancients to the age of terrorism, we discover that television plays a crucial role as a site of public memory and memorialisation in the face of large-scale disaster. This is more than ironic, for many argue that television is, if not the cause of terrorism, then certainly a major contributing factor to increases in terrorist activities.ii In 1946 a militant Zionist group orchestrated an elaborate plan to bomb the British military and administrative headquarters in the...

The Face as Magic Mirror

By the eighteenth century the image of the face as a mirror of the soul had been transformed I such a way that all radical aspects of animality were truly contained. This was due largely to the influence of the Swiss pastor John Casper Lavater's popular Essays on Physiognomy 1775-78 vi in which the human face is posited as no less than 'a magic mirror' of the face of God GOD CREATED MAN IN HIS OWN IMAGE, IN THE IMAGE OF GOD CREATED HE HIM. How exaltedly, how exclusively honourable to man...

The Face of Diana

While I was researching this book, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, resulted in a media event on a scale never seen before. Up until this point, I considered that perhaps Diana was the face of the media age. In a strange way, her death came to confirm this view. The event reached unprecedented global proportions when live television coverage of her funeral service was watched by an estimated one in three people worldwide, making it the then single most viewed event in human history.i...

The Violence of Defacement

About three quarters of the way into Mabo - Life of an Island Man, the metaphoric defacement of' 'Mabo' that the film seeks to compensate for is suddenly literalised in the shocking image of a racist attack on Eddie Mabo's grave. This attack occurred in June 1995, immediately following a Torres Straight Islander tombstone unveiling ceremony held in Townsville to commemorate Eddie Mabo and to celebrate the High Court judgement.xiv We learn that while indigenous and non-indigenous members of...

Mass Media as Face

In her study of the Weimar period in Sabine, Hake identifies a widespread critical interest in physiognomics 'in sociological writings on the metropolis George Simmel , in the morphology of world history Oswald Spenglar , in the first contributions to emergent film theory Bela Balasz , in metaphysical speculations on the body Ludwig Klages, Rudolf Kassner , and in a new theory of temperaments Kretchner '.xiv Hake speculates that in the destabilizing conditions of modernity physiognomy provided...

Faciality

It is argued that the invention of the camera in the nineteenth century reinvigorated the principles of physiognomy. And how The camera was crucial to the development and popularisation of influential positivist forms of social categorisation and subjugation, such as Francis Galton's programme of Eugenics and Cesare Lombroso's racist theory of criminality.vii Photography's apparent objectivity allowed for it to be easily applied in the service of social forms of surveillance and typification,...

Live History

The terrorist attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center, New York, September 11, 2001 was a catastrophic event that even now commentators compete to make sense of. But whether critics see the attack as the end of postmodernism, payback for American dominance, God's judgement of American secularism or the beginning of a New World Order, they all agree that September 11 is a singular media event. In 'Notes on the Logic of the Global Spectacle' Jonathan Flatley argues that what makes...

Film as Prosopopoeia

When Mabo - Life of an Island Man was first screened at the 1997 Sydney International Film Festival, it received a standing ovation that lasted more than five minutes and was voted Best Documentary Film. Since then, it has won numerous other national and international film awards.iv It has also had a successful national theatrical release and has been screened on national television ABC in prime time on several occasions. Reviews indicate that this positive reception is largely due to the...

Face to Face

Mabo - Life of an Island Man makes Eddie Mabo recognisable to Australian audiences as a face, as the face of native title. But as I have tried to show in this analysis, coming face to face with another is never straightforward nor does the familiarity generated by this particular form of intimacy guarantee a non-hostile relationship. In May 1884, for instance, some five years after Queensland annexed the Torres Straight Islands, the cover of Illustrated Sydney News featured an etching, titled,...