Monday, July 02, 2012

"Oranges and Sunshine": a social worker becomes a gumshoe journalist and exposes a major British slavery scandal

The drama “Oranges and Sunshine,” directed by Jim Loach, produced in both the UK and Australia, got to DVD quickly, from New Video, Cohen Media Group and Icon.  It tells a disturbing story in recent British history that may be off the radar for most Americans.  It is based on the book by social worker Margaret Humphreys called “Empty Cradles”, although the connotation is very different from that of a similarly titled book, “The Empty Cradle”, by Phillip Longman.

Around 1986, Margaret (Emily Watson) heard a story from a child who had been deported from poverty in Britain in the 1940s to Australia. She gumshoed and found a huge scandal, of children of indigent parents being told they were orphans, and of parents being told their kids were adopted in the UK.  The government sent them to Australia, Canada and Rhodesia as indentured labor, to save welfare money.

Margaret, though getting time off, faced criticism for investigating this herself  (without authority) to satisfy her own ego, and received threats from former bureaucrats who would be exposed.  There are a couple of abortive home invasion scenes back in England. Toward the end, she visits a chapel in Western Australia and confronts the priests with the fact that the chapel had been built by the manual labor of illegally deported kids, practically used as slaves.

The film is shot in full 2.35:1 and the mountainous  Australian desert scenery (probably in South Australia) is quite striking, rather like the lower end of US395 in California.

The official site is here.

Second picture: Japanese relocation camp on US395 in California (mine, May 2012)

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