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STATELESS (Cate Blanchett, Yvonne Strahovski, Jai Courtney – Netflix – July 8)

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    Bebe
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    #1203678252

    Again, I only watched this for Blanchett, and she was very good in her few scenes. I just wanted more of her fabulousness (I could have watched a whole series around her character).

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    wolfali
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    #1203678398

    Blanchett was terrifying in this! Gosh I would never want to watch a Series hanging around her character…

    FYC Emmys : THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL, SUCCESSION AND THE CROWN IN ALL CATEGORIES. Tony Shalhoub ("Maisel"), Cate Blanchett ("Mrs. America"), Matthew Macfadyen, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook ("Succession"), Tracey Ullman ("Mrs. America") and Louis Gossett Jr. ("Watchmen")

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    String Cheese Theory
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    Hey, THANK YOU so much for this seriously!!! Completely changing the way I’ll discuss this. I so appreciate it.

    My pleasure. I haven’t started the show yet but it’s next cab off the rank and I’ll come back here once I’ve seen it. (Currently bingeing The Wire which is depressing enough.)

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    String Cheese Theory
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    #1203694140

    I finally got around to watching Stateless and I have to say it was impressive. I wasn’t expecting it to be as Australian as it was, knowing it was a Queen Cate production and on Netflix with international buzz. Nevertheless, it made few concessions to foreign audiences and was squarely aimed at a domestic audience. It very much looked and sounded exactly the way Australia series are put together.

    To an Australian audience, the inclusion of Strahovski’s character is essential. Foreign audiences might not get it, but it demonstrates the abject failures of the Department over decades and the cases of Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon (both citizens) did nothing to change the system except push it offshore where journalists and advocates can’t get access.

    On the production side, I thought the writing and acting was fantastic. Rare to see such a perfect cast. Yvonne Strahovski and Jai Courtney were perfection. Asher Keddie, Fayssal Bazzi, Kate Box as the sister, all the security staff, detainees, the Assistant Secretary were excellent. Dominic West gave me the absolute chills (I just finished watching The Wire a few days ago so this was a surprise). Jocelyn Moorhouse’s direction was a treat.

    In terms of content, a firm yes. It touched on many of the issues (not all) which face Australia’s inhumane and illegal detention regime. The contrast between the mental health of a white woman and the mental health of everyone else was clear and devastating. The lack of education or recreation for children, the suicides and protests and optics for Canberra, all true. Splitting up families, sending people back to certain torture, violence and negligence of the smugglers, the interminably long time these poor people spent behind wire often in the desert and offshore islands. Hints of the Behrouz Boochani case. The incompetence and meanness of Australia’s politicians, public servants, police and private security contractors was a damning indictment on how they have dehumanised all of their clients, whether Australian citizens or asylum seekers.

    In 2012, as the epilogue says, we shunted them all off to offshore detention centres in PNG and Nauru – out of sight out of mind. Boat turn-backs to Indonesia never reported to the Australian public. Meanwhile, the vast majority of asylum seekers arrive by air and are treated completely differently.

    The nuns? Absolutely true. I am not Christian, but the churches have been at the forefront of refugee rights and protection in Australia since day dot. Smuggling in phones, protesting, organising. Along with the socially minded inner city types, these have both been predominantly white protest/advocacy groups, for many reasons, so I found that kind of representation in the show to be accurate.

    I noted Stateless was funded by the Australian Government and South Australian Film Commission. It was also aired on the state broadcaster, our ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission). I am proud to be from a country where one part of the government will fund criticism of itself and air it. I think behind the scenes, there would have been a lot of rewriting to get the tone right (it could have been a lot more horrifying and damning), including I assume back room involvement of UNHCR (for which Blanchett is a goodwill ambassador).

    I have worked in the refugee/displacement space in Australia and overseas for more than 10 years including within the UN.

    Tl;dr – Not fun to watch, but very rewarding, accurate and globally relevant.

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    wolfali
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    #1203694525

    Yeah I think of course one who is not from Australia (like myself) might feel discomfort at the inclusion of Strahovski’s character at the forefront but it’s literally a true story and like you said it’s inclusion exposes the failures of the department.

    Not like it matters so much but I wonder how well this will do awards wise. It could go from a completely shut out to having the same awards run as Top of the Lake season 1.

    Surely they can’t shut out Strahovski for literally giving one of the performances of the past 10 years?

    FYC Emmys : THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL, SUCCESSION AND THE CROWN IN ALL CATEGORIES. Tony Shalhoub ("Maisel"), Cate Blanchett ("Mrs. America"), Matthew Macfadyen, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook ("Succession"), Tracey Ullman ("Mrs. America") and Louis Gossett Jr. ("Watchmen")

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    String Cheese Theory
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    #1203694600

    Interestingly, I first heard about it through my international work channels, not through anything connected with Australia. UNHCR has heavily promoted it.

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    wolfali
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    Yes. I think we’re underestimating this show (at least at the Globes). The HFPA love to be political and are quite international looking so if the fascistic orange is re-elected (fingers crossed Biden-Harris pull through) don’t be surprised if they nominate this or The Plot Against America. They are both very timely and this to me feels right up their street like A Private War.

    FYC Emmys : THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL, SUCCESSION AND THE CROWN IN ALL CATEGORIES. Tony Shalhoub ("Maisel"), Cate Blanchett ("Mrs. America"), Matthew Macfadyen, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook ("Succession"), Tracey Ullman ("Mrs. America") and Louis Gossett Jr. ("Watchmen")

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    cheesesalad
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    #1203712010

    To an Australian audience, the inclusion of Strahovski’s character is essential. Foreign audiences might not get it [emphasis added], but it demonstrates the abject failures of the Department over decades and the cases of Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon (both citizens) did nothing to change the system except push it offshore where journalists and advocates can’t get access. …

    The contrast between the mental health of a white woman and the mental health of everyone else was clear and devastating. The lack of education or recreation for children, the suicides and protests and optics for Canberra, all true. Splitting up families, sending people back to certain torture, violence and negligence of the smugglers, the interminably long time these poor people spent behind wire often in the desert and offshore islands. Hints of the Behrouz Boochani case. The incompetence and meanness of Australia’s politicians, public servants, police and private security contractors [emphasis added] was a damning indictment on how they have dehumanised all of their clients, whether Australian citizens or asylum seekers.

    Thanks for your review!

    It’s been interesting comparing between Australian and American reviews of Stateless. (It stayed at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes between the Australian and Netflix releases. To be fair, only five reviews were counted towards the score during that period, but the initial reception was very positive, save for a few, particularly from The Sydney Morning Herald, which I found reasonable.)

    The reviews from Australia mostly focused on the show’s themes and motifs, the parallels in the stories (especially between Sofie’s and Ameer’s) and with current events, as well as offered contexts on immigration history and policy, Rau’s case’s significance, and Blanchett’s humanitarian work. Some reviews from the US and other international publications, meanwhile, focused mostly on the casting and the series’ storytelling approach. While I do find such concerns understandable, I also do feel like a lot of what Stateless had to say were overlooked, and it had a lot—maybe too much for some audiences. You have named a host of specific issues, and it also tackled some more general issues, such as inequality, family dynamics, moral dilemmas, the pretense of “self-help” groups, sexual harassment and victim blaming, and specific to Stateless, TV politics and why the series had to use the approach in the first place. There were so many more opportunities for conversations.

    [Disclaimer: I feel like I should clarify at this point that I am not Australian. I am an academic from Southeast Asia who dabbled for a few years in migration journalism. While I know people who have written about specific Australian topics and cases like Vivian Solon’s (some of them were particularly offended by parts of the reviews from TV Guide, RogerEbert.com, Mashable, etc.), I did not and have not personally worked on anything related to Australian immigration or the refugee experience. I did approach the series relatively informed.]

    I think behind the scenes, there would have been a lot of rewriting to get the tone right (it could have been a lot more horrifying and damning), including I assume back room involvement of UNHCR (for which Blanchett is a goodwill ambassador).

    Drama Quarterly has some details. I’ll quote a couple of relevant paragraphs but I think the entire article is worth a read:

    “As soon as you mentioned the word refugee, doors closed – quite literally for refugees, but also the doors of various television executives. They would say, ‘Hmm, interesting, brave,’ and then that’s about as far as the conversation goes,” Blanchett reveals.

    “If Cate Blanchett comes in to pitch something to your network, you have to fight every urge to just scream ‘Yes!’ But it was more of a conversation. It was a four-parter then, and we were talking about some of the challenges of financing four parts and how it had a different structure in terms of the characters’ perspectives and the way the story was told,” McKinnon recalls. “We kept talking and we talked about it being six [episodes]. We were totally on board at that point.”

    I think it would also be worth mentioning here again that Stateless was originally about just Cornelia Rau. I imagine that the pitch in that form was also met with some resistance given its implications.

    Not like it matters so much but I wonder how well this will do awards wise. It could go from a completely shut out to having the same awards run as Top of the Lake season 1.

    I do hope they take home some major awards or at least some nominations (specifically rooting for Strahovski) but I am finding Stateless’ award chances hard to read.

    For one, for Blanchett, this is more of a passion project especially compared to the vehicle that Mrs. America is. Meanwhile, the more I check, the more it’s looking like Stateless is a slow-burn or late bloomer. On the audience side, it’s still a popular recommendation in Netflix groups, and “Watch Stateless on Netflix!” seem to have become a common retort to anti-refugee tweets. On the media side, it received a new review from a Tomatometer-approved critic just last week (which, along with the Financial Times review, should push the RT score back to 80% once counted), and had a short interview with another HFPA member published just this week. Not sure if that’s the last of it. I’d still rather manage my expectations.

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    String Cheese Theory
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    #1203712058

    Thanks so much for that, super thoughtful  and you hit the nail on the head with pretty much everything you wrote. After having seen it, it’s one of those moments where as an Australian you just kind of go “that’s for us” and it never even occurs to you that an international audience might be paying attention (kind of like INXS or Toni Collette or Masterchef 🙂 ). It’s nice that Blanchett has told an Australian story and one of our most important ones.

    Seeking out Hollywood praise would actually be kind of tasteless (imho), especially as you have pointed out, they will have to keep explaining things which aren’t the point of the story, to suit the story that others (Americans) want to find. I am sure there are also Americans with mental health issues in immigration detention in the US. That’s the story they need to be talking about. Having some American entertainment reporter or blogger not getting the story, then having an opinion of it on RT or other, makes me cringe (cringing is our natural state).

    Where they could have made Stateless so much worse is by exposing the rabid Murdoch press and talkback radio hosts, the right-wing politicians and the suburban racism which provided the bedrock for allowing this national shame to play out. Some concessions to being publicly funded and aired on the national broadcaster, sadly.

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