TALL MAN, THE
In 2004 on Australia's tropical Palm Island, Cameron Doomadgee was arrested for drunkedness and swearing at Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley - the 2m 'tall man' with 20 years service; 45 minutes later, Doomadgee was dead. His injuries were like those of someone who'd been in a fatal car crash. The police claimed he had tripped on a step. The subsequent trial of Hurley - who had been decorated for his work in Aboriginal communities - made headlines day after day, shadowed by Queensland police threatening to strike.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The notorious case of Cameron Doomadge's death has echoed ominously around Australia ever since that November day in 2004. This doco, based on the well researched book by Chloe Hooper (who is also interviewed) brings the story to life on the screen, complete with the added impact of the visuals. Reading what Cameron's partner says is not nearly as powerful as seeing and hearing her say it in person, for example.
The film tries to be balanced in presenting both the police version of events and the case against Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, the tall man of the title. But try as they might, the filmmakers edge and slide to a totally understandable bias against Hurley. The police version is presented only through recorded public statements - because the police would not participate in the making of the film.
And this goes straight to the heart of the problem with the whole case. If Doomadge had died in an accidental fall while being escorted to his cell, why didn't Hurley - and/or any of his colleagues on the island - immediately advise the Doomadge family, and also make a public announcement. If they were so well experienced in policing, they should have known that silence and secrecy would lead to violent responses form the local community, of whom Doomadge was a known and liked member.
Refusing to participate in this film further deepens suspicion and demonstrates how ill equipped the Queensland police force is in modern policing management techniques.
But the most important question for us must be: how well do the filmmakers tell the story? I think they do it very well. It's clear and concise, the known facts and the deeply felt emotions all displayed. We see Palm Island through the eyes of the storytellers, but also get an insider's glimpse.
Rochelle Oshlack must be credited for editing the film into the fine shape it is and Germain McMicking for unobtrusive yet intimate images of the family and community. Writer/director Tony Krawitz has made a significant socio-political doco which raises several vital questions (eg why was Doomadge arrested for being drunk when he was not doing any harm?) and its forensic accuracy will long be hailed as valuable to an Australia that must do better in its policing methods - especially in its indigenous communities.
Email this article
DARREN DALE INTERVIEW
TALL MAN, THE (M)
PRODUCER: Darren Dale
DIRECTOR: Tony Krawitz
SCRIPT: Tony Krawitz
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Germain McMicking
EDITOR: Rochelle Oshlack
MUSIC: David McCormack, Anthony Partos
RUNNING TIME: 79 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 17, 2011