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FRIENDS AND ENEMIES

Australia, 1987 (MIFF 1987)

Director: Tom Zubrycki

In February 1985 Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen sacked 1002 electrical linesmen and rushed through Parliament some of the harshest anti-union legislation seen in Australia for over 50 years. Friends And Enemies is an impressionistic account of the nine-month struggle, observing some of the major protagonists on both sides. On the surface, the film focuses on strategy and tactics but the underlying themes refer to power and social class. The film constantly shifts between two dialectical poles. Vince Lester, the Queensland minister in charge of the dispute, takes it to the very heart of National Party territory as he explains the government's position to audiences at country fairs, barbecues and debutante balls. Meanwhile, back in the union office, a progressively embittered rank and file struggle to understand the root cause of their predicament (who their friends and enemies are) and how, if at all, they can influence the course of events. The film raises serious questions about the trade union movement's ability to run an effective campaign. This is especially disturbing when viewed in the context of further savage anti-union legislation recently passed by the Queensland Government making strikes virtually illegal in that state.

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