Black & White

BLACK AND WHITE is a highly charged period drama about one man's conviction that changed a nation. Based on a true story, BLACK AND WHITE is a compelling and even-handed look at a trial that galvanized Australia in the fifties.

It is Christmas 1958 in conservative Adelaide, a city that prides itself on its peaceful, well-bred qualities. An excitable young lawyer, David O'Sullivan (Robert Carlyle), is given the news that he has drawn a 'bad lottery prize' - a no fee case where he must defend a young Aboriginal man Max Stuart (David Ngoombujarra) who has been arrested for the murder of a nine year old white girl. The murder took place in the far west desert town of Ceduna, a conservative village where cops are kings.

O'Sullivan is inexperienced and inept - he can't even handle a simple will - and he gets little support from his partner, Helen Devaney (Kerry Fox). He faces a most erudite and ambitious prosecutor, the terribly British Roderic Chamberlain (Charles Dance), who feels he is the empire's last bastion against barbarism. And Max is hardly the most trustworthy client: he changes his story almost daily.

But O'Sullivan is immediately suspicious. It's obvious that Max did not write his own confession and the prosecution changes evidence willy-nilly, torpedoing any proper defence. Battling his own shortcomings, as well as legal and social prejudices, O'Sullivan fights for Max like a man possessed. Just as everything seems lost, O'Sullivan finds a new ally in Rupert Murdoch (Ben Mendelsohn), then a young tabloid publisher trying to make a name for himself, who either believes Max to be innocent or senses a story ripe for exploitation.

Although it takes place nearly five decades ago, in a country just emerging from a colonial mentality, BLACK AND WHITE is eerily, painfully contemporary. It wisely refuses to argue for Max's innocence or guilt, concentrating instead on a rigged and problematic justice system which simply could not provide a proper trial for the accused. BLACK AND WHITE raises questions that invariably transcend mere details; its real focus is the nature of justice in a world overrun by prejudice and suspect media - and populated by inevitably flawed human beings.