The Survival of Kindness

DRAMA; 1hr 36min

STARRING: Mwajemi Hussein

Eternal unrest: Hussein

Writer-director Rolf de Heer’s surreal indictment of racism starts out as it means to go on, with the abandonment of an Indigenous woman (newcomer Hussein, majestically expressive as BlackWoman) in the hellscape of an Australian desert. Caged in a trailer, baked for days by a blistering sun, BlackWoman is unequivocally alone. Although she walks away with her survival skills, her silent resolve and her sanity apparently intact, the question of where to go from where she is has to be a recipe for despair.


Whatever her history, BlackWoman is no stranger to the outwardly impossible. The scorched eternity that confronts her as she makes her way on foot — scavenged shoes are a big, bizarre deal along the way — and the strange and terrible sights she encounters are no match for her fixity of purpose. (Handily, she also doesn’t appear to need to eat, and she scales a vertical rock face without a quiver of fear or a crampon in sight. Which by rights should come in handier than it does.)


With virtually no dialogue and minimal scoring, de Heer (Bad Boy Bubby) and cinematographer Maxx Corkindale have fleshed out an alien planet where death is as grotesque and inexplicable as the emotions that fuel it. There is no hope to cling to there, no safe house in which to hide: when BlackWoman makes her way to the mechanised nightmare of a disease-ridden city, her face disguised by the gas mask that all the white oppressors are wearing, the threat of execution for anyone of colour is even more acute since escape is never an option. As always, de Heer isn’t messing around. His outrage is a flaming grenade.