Essay Introductions on the Film ‘Lion’ Directed by Garth Davis

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For Year 11 students studying AOS1, Unit 1 Reading and Creating Texts, the film Lion Directed by Garth Davis, please find two essay prompts with their Introductions that include the Main Contention and Message of Director colour coded.

Prompt #1   “Every night I imagine that I’m walking those streets home and I know every single step of the way and I whisper in her ear I’m here”.  Lion portrays the bonds of family.  Discuss.

Introduction / Main Contention / Message of Director

Lion the movie directed by Garth Davis is about love, the bonds of family and the remarkable bond between mother and son that transcends continents.  As a young five year old we see Saroo working with his birth mother Kamla in the hills behind their village of Ganesh Talai, Khandwa, India.  There is a clear sense of belonging to family and knowing Saroo is accepted and loved shown in the scene where his mother feeds her children with the milk in packets Guddu got in the market.  In 1987 Saroo is adopted by Sue and John Brierly who prove a quiet dedication to the bonds of family in the life they provide for Saroo in Tasmania.  Then the film transports us 25 years later as the adult Saroo scours Google Earth for clues to the whereabouts of his village in India.  The more vivid the memories become for Saroo he feels the more his love for his birth mother is reignited.  The pivotal moment is in 2012 in the village of Ganesh Talai when Saroo’s birth mother sees his face after 25 years of separation.  The memory of her face had been embedded in Saroo’s mind for such a long time in the many flashbacks he experienced throughout the film.  No matter how long Kamla had been apart from her son she knew who he was and their tears spoke for themselves as the bonds of unconditional love is celebrated.  Director Garth Davis said that for him the film reminds us that if you can love unconditionally and give a child a home and hope, like Sue gave Saroo, then you can overcome anything through love.

Introduction / Main Contention / Message of Director

Prompt #2  Explore how the landscape plays a significant part in the film Lion.

The film Lion directed by Garth Davis hosts a range of beautifully shot landscape sequences by cinematographer Greig Frasier both in India and Tasmania.  The rugged and stunning landscapes play a significant part in the film as they are used to convey Saroo’s current state of mind.  The landscape shots were based on stories told by the real Saroo Brierley to the cinematographer with the effect that it allows the viewer to empathise with and create a connection with Saroo.  When Saroo says “I have to find my way back home” these words are like a pledge to accomplish something seemingly impossible to achieve across continents of landscapes.  Geography is at the heart of the film and we see at the very beginning of the film overhead shots take place as the credits appear which carry great meaning to the real life of Saroo.  The landscapes are meant to simulate astral-travelling that Saroo used to do as a child when he would allow his mind to travel across Australian landscapes to Indian landscapes to find his home.  Throughout the sequencing of the sweeping landscapes of both India and Australia the film tells the viewer Saroo’s story in sections so that we compare the two. Consequently, it is impossible not to reflect on the juxtaposition between the comfortable, suburban, middle-class upbringing Saroo enjoyed in Hobart, and the tough, dirty, poor lifestyle he inadvertently escaped back in India.  More importantly, by mimicking astral-travelling within the magnificent landscapes, Director Davis wanted his audience to appreciate the sense of Saroo as a tiny speck against a massive world and the enormous effort needed to find his way home to the village of Ganesh Talai.

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Analytical Essay on Belonging in Peter Skrzynecki’s Poetry

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For Mainstream English Year 12 students studying the poetry collection ‘Old/New World’ by Peter Skrzynecki, AOS1: Unit 3, Reading and Creating Texts, Analytical Response Outcome.

This task requires the students to synthesise poems in the ‘Old/New World’ collection by Peter Skrzynecki of ‘Black Cockatoos’ / ‘Immigrants at Central Station’ / ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’ / ‘Seeing my Parents’ and put together an analytical response essay on the prompt.

The Analytical Prompt Topic is ‘Belonging is not about geography, but about family’.  Discuss.

Belonging is tied to a sense of identity and the groups we choose to belong to and the ways we connect with others to help form our own identity.  Together these issues go to the heart of who we are and how we present ourselves to the world.  We share a human quality in the need to belong yet sometimes we question both ‘who am I?’ and ‘where do I belong?’.  In ‘Old/New World’ poetry collection by poet Peter Skrzynecki, he shares with his readers a sense of ambivalence in his relationship with his parents, but at the same time, he acknowledges and honours their sacrifices they made for him.  Therefore, in analysing Skrzynecki’s poems it is important to see not only his connection to family but also to place, practices, language, heritage and geography that are all interconnected and tied to his sense of belonging and sense of identity.

In the poems under review “Black Cockatoos”, “Immigrants at Central Station”, “Feliks Skrzynecki” and “Seeing my Parents”, Peter Skrzynecki writes about connecting the old and new worlds of his poetry together in his search for belonging.  Through his poems Peter discovers the ways in which he can come to terms with the multi-faceted nature of his identity and the interaction between belonging to his family’s old cultural Polish heritage and the new world as an Australian with all its promising future.

Synthesising the relationship of the birds in “Black Cockatoos” who represent freedom in the new world, they express themselves clearly against the old domesticated species of pigeons in “Immigrants at Central Station” who represent the old world from Europe.  The cockatoos easily belong and make themselves heard with brash and screeching voices so that they can be heard “above the boom and crash of the waves” yet the pigeons just “watch” and are voiceless.  The pigeons, representing the immigrants, have sad and negative thoughts about belonging to the new world and because they cannot speak English and there seems to be no way for them to counteract the noisy cockatoos (Australians) who literally take over the place.

As the old-world birds, from devastated post-war Europe, have difficulty in belonging to the place they are in, such as the train station, it represents a transit place and part of their dislocation from their country of origin.  In terms of freedom to belong, they are limited by language differences, experience, loss of culture and an expectation of what their futures will be in the new country.  This is shown as the immigrant journeys are controlled by time “while time ran ahead” but their sense of belonging is impacted by an unknown future “along glistening tracks of steel” to a place they do not know.  In contrast, the cockatoos in “Black Cockatoos” are totally in control of their lives as they “swept down the cliff” and “whistled, broke formation, chattered” taking over the whole beach.

In some of Peter Skrzynecki’s poems related to family and belonging there is also a sense of paradox where Peter’s optimism for the future in the new world clashes with his sense of sadness about his past and even regret that at the end of his poems he has not received closure about who he is or where his identity comes from.  In the poem “Seeing my Parents” there is a sense of regret that the poet wanted to thank his parents for all the sacrifices they made as immigrants to help his education and way of life in the new country but he is unable to tell them how he feels in the present day because they are dead.  The poet wants to catch up with them and “touch them – thank them for everything they did for me” yet he cannot reach for them “out of yesterday and into tomorrow”.

Similarly, Peter wants the readers to appreciate his sense of pride and belonging to his father Felix in the poem “Felix Skrzynecki” when he begins the poem “my gentle father” is Peter’s tribute to Felix’s dignity.  However, the young Peter also feels a disconnect with his family and does not belong to his heritage in his inability to accept his Polish past he is in fact alienated from Felix and his friends and does not understand why “His Polish friends always shook hands so violently”.  Peter does not want to learn the Polish language and even puts up “Hadrian’s Wall” to disconnect himself from belonging to his Polish heritage.

Peter Skrzynecki’s poetry is deeply rooted in family and cultural awareness and he writes about the importance of belonging to not only family but also to place, language, heritage and geography.  However, his poems clearly show a divide between the interaction of belonging to the past and the new world that represents the poet’s future as an Australian.  There are however, paradoxes in his relationships with his family that, as an adult poet, Peter has tried to honour his parents by paying tribute to his heritage and staying connected to them in his poems.  Yet, many poems end without closure and as readers, we have to respect his feelings and the notion of something that is not finished.  May be Peter is asking us readers to question whether he did finally belong to one world – the old world or the new world?

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