by Del Harvey
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Released May 31, 2011, from BFS Entertainment, Bordertown is a highly ambitious Australian miniseries from the late 80’s that it is gimmick free, low-concept and entirely character driven. Which means it is a fantastic show, and as if that weren’t enough, it’s got Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett.
Bordertown is about Baringa, a deserted army barracks in a dusty, isolated region of Australia. The place is a holding center for new immigrants and therefore the temporary home of divergent but hopeful newcomers, fugitives and people simply looking for a fresh start. The series focuses on a small group of these new immigrants, paid by the Australian government to work in the camp, either in a professional capacity as teachers and doctors, etc., or in a manual capacity as farmers and other laborers.
Among this key group are an isolated base commander; the uptight base manager (Linda Cropper); a group of feuding Italians; various refugees from the Holocaust, Nazism or Communism; and a Liverpudlian English teacher (Hugo Weaving) with his budding teenage daughter.
In each of the 9 episodes two characters are spotlighted as the main focus, with the remaining characters appearing in support. While Weaving’s character becomes one of the most integral of all, in the earlier episodes he is not shown as much as some of his neighbors. Nonetheless, if you stick with the entire series, you will follow the natural course of events which lead to a very dramatic and stirring climax, of which Weaving is most powerful of all.
Cate Blanchett’s participation, unfortunately, is only for 2 and a half episodes. She portrays a slightly mad Italian albino ‘slut’ whom some believe to be a witch, and ultimately this renders her an outsider among the group. Hence the limited screen time.
The real standouts in the ensemble cast are the very strong Linda Cropper as the aforementioned base manager; Mitchell Butel as the good-natured but extremely simple Nino; Christine Tremarco as Louise, blossoming and desperate for love; and Hugo Weaving as her loquacious, self-loathing, guilt-ridden father and the camp’s asinine English teacher, Ken.
In the various episodes we are exposed to engrossing tales of love, death, greed and the plain hard life of these starry-eyed immigrants, each of whom bears the hope for a better tomorrow.
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Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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