This is a wonderful documentary. Featuring eight Second World War veterans, it traces their personal experiences of war. Using a technique that interweaves interviews with archival material, it creates an extraordinarily effective collage of war and Australian social history. While the focus is on Australia at war, it is as much about the individuals and what they reveal about the attitudes and experiences of "the generation passing into history". As such, this documentary is a great complement to existing material that tends to deal with battle front chronologies.
The interviewees - ranging from an infantry soldier to an army chaplain to a Red Cross nurse - are a stunning group and their reflections make for powerful viewing. Their understated style contributes to the slow pace in the early stages and the constant moving from one to the other runs the risk of fragmentation. Nevertheless, as the personalities emerge, the layers of testimony accumulate and the atmosphere builds, it is impossible not be to drawn into the eight different lives. By the end, most viewers, including hard-bitten Year 10 students, will struggle not to be in tears. For, quite apart from its historical value, this documentary offers a bridge between generations.
The interviews are organised into four sections: War on the Horizon, War on Australia's Doorstep, Prisoners of War and Aftermath & Farewell. There are nine special features on topics such as the Atom Bomb and Bringing Home the POWs. As already suggested, the aim has not been to present a comprehensive overview of Australia's wartime history. Instead, there is the opportunity for students to engage with individuals in a way that may build understanding at a deeper level. In terms of Australian social history, this film is an example of oral history at its best. As a resource for those focusing on Australia's military history, it would add significant meaning to many aspects of a classroom survey. Moreover, the subject matter suggests all sorts of possibilities for student research.
This resource is highly recommended for the Stage 5 course in NSW. Thinking national curriculum, it should be equally relevant wherever Australian history is being taught.
Paul Kiem HTANSW, 2010