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HIRED ASSASSINS

Australia, 2003 (MIFF 2003, Australian Showcase)

Director: Helen Burrow

Helen Barrow's penetrating documentary takes us behind the scenes at the offices of Australia's leading newspapers and into the studios of the country's leading political cartoonists. Combining fly on the wall observation and probing interviews, the film delves into the minds of the cartoonists dissecting current events, lambasting celebrity, prodding the powerful and, most frequently, tearing strips off Aussie politicians. These are the folk who have the courage (and daily opportunity) to say out loud what most people are thinking ... and fearing. Artists profiled include Warren Brown (Daily Telegraph), David Rowe (Financial Review), Bill Leak (The Australian) and Geoff Pryor (Canberra Times).

There is a focus on the unique skills required to blend ink, politics and satire. The pen of a cartoonist working on a high-circulation metropolitan daily can be a devastating weapon that pricks pomposity in the powerful and evokes sympathy for the exploited and down trodden. Barrow also bravely gives key parliamentary players the opportunity to respond to their artistic critics. Against the pressure of deadlines, a cartoonists work requires nerves of steel, a tough hide and a certain kind of attitude and mentality to consistently produce provocative, exciting and entertaining work, every day, every week, for years.

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