[ Previous ] [ Human Rights ] [ Next ]

Thursday 27 October 2005

The Age

Our own version of Dr Zhivago

Author: Brian Courtis
Publication: The Age (23,Thu 27 Oct 2005)
Edition: First
Section: News
Keywords: human (1),rights (1)



IN THE first episode tonight of this quietly seething two-part documentary, Storyline Australia demonstrates that love can conquer all but racist bureaucrats. It also shows that love can have a far greater long-term effect than even its original players might have imagined.

Without wishing to wax too David-Lean lyrical here, Pioneers of Love, the very real story of Russian immigrant Leandro Illin and Aboriginal widow Kitty Clarke, could, in the right hands, be an Australian Dr Zhivago. It speaks of hope, perseverance and the future.

But what really gets to you first about this romance is the determination of Leandro Illin, the man who broke the rules for love. It brought him hardships and tragedy, but he never gave up. And that changed many lives.

Pioneers of Love, produced by Richard Dennison and directed by Julie Nimmo, focuses on two strikingly different partners while reflecting on the extraordinary historical events that were taking place in the early years of last century.

The Illins, a family of odd Russian dissidents from an aristocratic background, fled home to escape persecution, making their way to far north Queensland. They worked land in the Atherton rainforest and, alongside other Russian migrants, began setting up what they hoped would be a utopian commune.

To the Queenslanders, the settlement became known as "Little Siberia". But, as Bolshevik fears grew, the settlers had little chance of finding paradise in Australia.

Like many others, the Illin family and the Russians moved on with their idealism, eventually setting up shop somewhere in South America. Leandro, however, was left behind. He had met 20-year-old Kitty Clarke when he was 28. She was a Ngadjon woman and a mother of three. They had fallen in love, had a child, and, as the law then required, he had applied to the protector of Aborigines for permission to marry.

That was refused and police were ordered to separate Kitty and the children from him. So Leandro took the family away from their traditional land and, with Aboriginal help, set up home in a remote part of the outback.

We get a rich impression of the couple from the affectionate memories of their daughter Flora Hoolihan. Tragedy followed. The Russian pioneer, however, continued to work hard for the Aboriginal people and his message of "truth, justice and equality" was passed on to his children and, in turn, to activist Eddie Mabo.

Today, it seems, there are 200 descendants of Leandro and Kitty. Many are community leaders, most fighters for human rights. In 1998, the Ngadjon people won back the rights to their traditional land. Love wins through?


The Mole: The Amazing

Game 7.30pm, Seven

DIG in for more visual delights and dodgy challenges in New Zealand as Tom Williams takes us into the final stages of the TV reality-game show. The winner, all set to expose that sabotaging Mole, has had the opportunity to notch up to $500,000 in prize money.

The Surgeon 9.30pm, Ten

BEST episode so far of Ten's impressive, low-budget medical drama. Dr Eve Agius (Justine Clarke) finds herself brought to earth as she's forced to make decisions on a badly injured pregnant patient. The final scenes are heart-rending.

Alias 10.30pm, Seven

WHAT more can we ask of Alias than to see Arvin Sloane again being bad to the bone? Tonight's exhausting episode offers that and a couple of other truly unexpected series shockers. Rambaldi and producer J.J. Abrams have a lot to answer for . . .

Caption :PHOTO: Mixed fortunes: Leandro Illin, Kitty Clarke and children.

Headline: Our own version of Dr Zhivago
  Author: Brian Courtis
  Edition: First
 Section: News
[ Previous ][ Human Rights ][ Next ]

Copyright © Fairfax