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Eddie Mabo

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To some extent, the process of Eddie Mabo’s selflessly giving benefits individuals instead of requiring sacrifice. In the film Mabo, the director Rachel Perkins depicts Eddie’s whole life devotion to Aboriginal land right and fight against racism and inequality. Eddie devotes his whole life being a qualified ‘troublemaker’ and in the meantime he also enjoys the outcome of his effort. Racism and inequality are depicted by Perkins as the hidden rules at the start of the film.

Firstly, Eddie has pulled over by the police while he is drunk on the road. Perhaps this is an event for him to stay calm and become more realistic. Although the police let him go, he is already humiliated by the police. After that, Eddie starts to dance the island dance. The dance is very significant. Although he suffered earlier racist treatment, this moment shows the audience that Eddie will not be beaten. He has pride in his soul, in his ancestry and his culture. Later in the film, where Eddie and Bonita are forced to stay in town, Bonita is told “There’s no room love”. With angry and shame, Eddie calls out to the Hotel Manager, “What you think we’re gonna leave our black skin on the sheets!” Perkins use a medium shot to show Eddie and Bonita’s angry expression and body movements. This make the viewer becomes unpleasantly and realized the real effects of unequal treatment. At that time there was no law preventing Indigenous people from staying in hotel rooms at all.

The setting of the pub where Eddie visits is a typical example showing how Aborigines are considered as “second-class” in the 1950s’ Australia. Eddie has experience of being taken to the back door for a beer and refused to serve him. At first Eddie accepts this injustice, however, later in the story, he refuses to leave until he is offered the service by protest against the unfair treatment to the barman. This indicates that the social level of Indigenous people at the time is very low, which paving Eddie’s outburst later. Eddie refused over and over and protest peacefully but unfortunately his protest ends up very soon, he was arrested by the police and get in to the ‘lock-up’. However it is a turning point in the film that make Eddie believe that the unequal laws must change.

Moreover, later in the film, a number of medium shots are used by Perkins to emphasize the interactions between Eddie and others, especially his legal team which is made up of ‘white people’. In other words, Eddie has to tries his best to challenge the social unfairness to be ‘troublemakers’ passively in order to improve his personal social status. Therefore, Eddie has no choice but to be troublemakers, the fight for the equal rights is inevitably/unavoidable.

However, Perkins also highlights that Eddie’s family, especially his wife Bonita, has to suffer from flaws of Eddie, physically and emotionally. Like Eddie, Bonita also believes in justice and equality for indigenous people. There was significant action across Australia during the 1950s. Several of the unions were led by communists. The government was afraid of communism and trying to strike the communists. Eddie’s connection in the unions put him and his family at risk. In the meantime Eddie quit his job because the white people cut his pay. Bonita is afraid. “People like us can’t afford to be troublemakers,” she says. Eddie responds by saying, “Bonita, people like us have no choice but to be troublemakers.” Although Bonita argues with him about his hot headed and irresponsible for his family and because of his trouble making she threatens to leave him after he quits his job, Eddie’s belief and determination in his ideals finally win her over. In the following scene, which is the protest march linked Bonita and Eddie stand together. This implies that Bonita acknowledge Eddie’s opinion which they have no choice but to be troublemakers.

Contrary to this view, some audience may think Eddie is wrong, claiming this could ruin his family. Although Eddie was being a ‘troublemaker’ successfully, but he was failed to support his wife and his family by brushed Bonita away, ignored her when he was refused entry onto Murray Island and let Bonita raised the children by herself which was admitted by Eddie. However, Perkins use a close up shots with a sharp piano music to show Eddie’s tearfully apology, which make the audience forgive him.

In conclusion, Perkins uses her skills to create a ‘troublemaker’ with pride, determination and strong sense of justice. Although everything has two sides, there have some negative effects of being troublemakers, yet Eddie also pays the cost of being ‘troublemaker’. Individual (family) sacrifice is needed to achieve success, justice and equality. Overall, Eddie Mabo is right.

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