The Australian Dream is shattering. And now, the illusion of our country can’t be unshattered.
In what is easily 2019’s most essential movie, AFL great and former Australian of the Year Adam Goodes agrees to re-examine the racial vilification he faced from jeering footy fans.
This is no reflection on a bygone, less-enlightened era. The period under the microscope? 2015.
Directed by Daniel Gordon, The Australian Dream at first seems like it will just follow in the footsteps of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries (Gordon has directed a few). It contains cracking sports footage, beginning with Goodes as a pre-draft VFL champion, and culminating when he’s a two-time Brownlow medallist fighting through a PCL injury to win the Grand Final for his Sydney Swans. Then, like many 30 for 30 docs, it eventually homes in on a bizarre, sports-adjacent event: the persistent booing Goodes faced in his final years of the game, inciting his retirement.
What separates the film from the pack is the overarching narrative provided by screenwriter, journalist and sorta-narrator Stan Grant. As he outlines, this story isn’t just a slice of meaningless sporting ephemera. The doco places Goodes’ experience in the context of English occupation of Aboriginal land; it articulates the hurt and confusion of Aboriginal Australians felt by their daily encounters with racism, now given a platform in the AFL; and it explores the trauma of genocide, and of the Stolen Generations, and how these unhealed wounds are prodded by modern incidents. As we see, the collective roar that emanates from booing attendees takes on an increasingly ominous tone in The Australian Dream. The horde speaks as one, echoing Australia’s dark history.