A film and music for Advent

A few months ago I saw the Australian western Sweet Country, and it’s been echoing around my mind since. In the outback, a preacher is pressed upon by an embittered and racist neighbour to lend his aboriginal labourer for a few days. His initial reluctance is overcome by an appeal to his Christian charity: “Isn’t it the Christian thing to help a neighbour”. The preacher’s yielding sets off a chain of events ending in tragedy. The efforts of good people to put things right are significant, and ultimately inadequate. The visceral defence of ingrained privilege is too powerful. Nobody is completely innocent, and the preacher and the judge are constrained by their position as beneficiaries of injustice. As the shock of the final scene fades away, Jonny Cash’ rendition of Peace in the Valley accompanies the credits. Hope is maintained only by looking further beyond, but what we hope and strive for is still about what happens here: peace in this valley, our own sweet country. The film’s lingering shots of the breathtaking landscape add to this sense of geographical grounding. It’s a story about hope, waiting and the messy but no less beautiful physical realm. Fitting themes for advent.

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