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Australia 2011
Directed by
Dee McLachlan
89 minutes
Rated TBA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

10 Terrorists

Synopsis: Is this the last frontier for Reality TV?  The winner takes all. Literally.

Dee McLachlan was the director of The Jammed, an independent Australian film that once seemed destined for obscurity but through word-of-mouth become one of the most critically and commercially successful Australian films of 2007. Often this kind of success attracts eager investors clamouring to hook their cart to the next big thing. Whilst this is every tyro film-maker’s dream, it is not necessarily a good thing – look at the careers of Stephan Elliot and Greg Mclean, for instance. Although no tyro, it is, however, not a problem that Ms McLachlan has had to deal with. I don’t want to sound patronising but in a way, it seems to have been a good thing for her, for she and her co-producer Andrea Buck, still pulling on those well-tested bootstraps, are back with another project. And it is one that has the qualities that make independent film so satisfying –an unvarnished commitment to its vision and a palpable sense of collaborative spirit – the sort of qualities that money can’t buy.

10 Terrorists is a comedy, not about terrorism but about reality television. In its broadest sense it is a reductio ad absurdum of capitalism’s insatiable need to exploit. In this case, it is the very last unappropriated territory left to it - its own demise. In other words it’s a Dr Strangelove for our economically rationalist, media-saturated, 21st century world. And like Kubrick’s film, it’s damn funny. If irony is your style of humour, that is. Irony is not something which Australian film is noted for nor is something that fills the multiplexes but 10 Terrorists is a small gem - knowingly irreverent, and energetically inventive, it is a real kick in the pants to the tiredness which has overtaken our comedies in recent years.

Although this is only her second film in Australia, Ms McLachlan had a substantial career as a documentary and feature film-maker in both South Africa and the US before coming here. That the film was shot with only eight days of principal photography is a testament to her well-honed skills.  Another of the keys to the film’s success is the collaboration that has gone into it. This was not just something that went on behind the camera with many of the creatives, including cinematographer Peter Falk amongst others, reuniting from The Jammed.  Although based on a story developed by McLachlan with co-producer Lenny de Vries, the script involves considerable input from the cast themselves, all of whom do a first class job.  “Political” films can easily founder in preaching polemics but the improvised nature of the in-character dialogue keeps us in the :reality” of what we are witnessing.

If Ms McLachlan deserves credit for her directorial skills she has also functioned as editor and if anything, her contribution here is even more telling. There is no irony without wit and wit does not solicit the guffaw. What makes her film such a comedic delight is that it plays with, rather than brays at, its audience. Whilst the core concept endows proceedings with a continuously underlying absurdity, the explicit jokes are always obliquely made, more quirks in the corner of the screen than front and centre “ha-ha's” . And they are dotted throughout the film frequently enough to keep one wryly smiling throughout. And if the shaping of the raw material is felicitous, the post-production enhancements through the use of graphics and interpellated footage are impressive. The realization that 10 Terrorists was made for $300,000 is quite staggering when one sees the result on screen. Let’s hope that more than a handful of people get to have that experience as a result of a canny distributor getting behind this richly-rewarding film.





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