In November of 2004, Cameron Doomadgee was arrested on Palm Island for drunkenness and taken into the custody of Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley. Forty-five minutes later, he was dead. The Tall Man is a feature documentary about the court case and riot that followed, from director Tony Krawitz. “Our focus is on what justice means for Aboriginal people in remote Aboriginal communities, on the emotional side of the case, what it’s been like for the family,” Krawitz says.
Based on the book by Chloe Hooper, the film depicts what Krawitz describes as “a war between two tribes”: the Aboriginal communities and the Queensland Police. And yet amongst all the anger and turmoil Krawitz managed to find the human aspects of the story. One of Krawitz’s favorites “is the karaoke scene which is a beautiful house and a couple who had been doing karaoke every Friday night for nearly 20 years, they’d have a barbecue and people would come around and sing. I think that was a real eye-opener for me, seeing the really beautiful side of Indigenous culture up there, people were so generous and welcoming and gracious to us.”
On the other side were the police. Krawitz wants to make clear his movie is not a statement on Hurley, who became the first policeman to be tried for the death of an Aboriginal man. “We’re just presenting the facts as the inquest and trial has laid them out,” Krawitz says. He allows his audience to decide what lay behind what is described in the movie as “not a directly racist act.”
Krawitz makes his feature-length debut with The Tall Man. He has directed episodes of All Saints andCity Homicide as well as the 52-minute drama Jewboy. Krawitz is currently working on a film adaptation of Dead Europe, based on the book by Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap; it’s about a Greek-Australian photographer who returns home to find that his family has been cursed. “Even if it was a very light-hearted [project],” he says, “it would have to be something that resonates for me personally.”