The Way Back
Release Date: February 24
The latest offering from visionary Australian director Peter Weir seems like a run-of-the-mill triumph of the human spirit story, but transforms into something distinctly different.
The Way Back is the staggering but true story of a handful of prisoners who escape from one of Stalin’s concentration camp during the 1940s and stagger their way from the snows of Siberia to the highlands of India. The escapees are an unlikely alliance. Colin Farrell stars as a murderous Russian criminal who probably deserves the worst the communist system could dream up. Ed Harris is Mr Smith, an American engineer caught in the wrong country when World War Two begins. And relative newcomer Alexandru Potocean provides the film’s moral heart in the form of Tomasz, a soldier desperate to get back to the wife who was forced to betray him.
The Way Back is worth watching if only for the stunning human achievement of a relatively untrained group conquering such seemingly insurmountable natural barriers as the Siberian tundra, the Gobi Desert and the Himalayan Mountains. And Peter Weir does a brilliant job bringing to life all of the physical, mental and emotional trials that accompany their trek. However once thousands of miles have rolled passed the camera, viewers will come to realise that this is not a predictable story about the indomitable human spirit. Weir demonstrates that those who live for themselves are the least likely to survive in the face of life’s worst perils. Mr Smith explains to Tomasz why he is prepared to go along with his foolhardy escape plan:
Mr Smith: “You have a weakness that could be useful to me.”
Mr Smith: “Kindness. If anything happens to me I’m counting on you to carry me.”
All along The Way Back it becomes clear that living for self is not the most powerful guarantee of survival. People fight snow, wolves and sandstorms not for themselves but for the sake of others: the other escapees, the friends they make along the way, the loved ones they are striving to get back to. Despite what popular stories about super achievers say, Weir discovers a stronger motivation for enduring the unendurable than the love of self: survival for the sake of others.
Release Date: Weekdays, 9:50 AM
You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to say this about a children’s program – encourage your kids to watch this show! Bookaboo has the potential to deliver the holy grail of television entertainment that makes children smarter.
In an age where viewing has largely replaced reading as a means of learning anything, Bookaboo aims to turn the tide for your youngest tykes. The approach is formulaic but effective. Bookaboo is a puppy puppet who also happens to be a world famous drummer. However he won’t perform until someone reads him a book: “A story a day or I just can’t play!” Each episode he locks himself in his tour bus until one of his celebrity fans just happens by to read him something from their ‘bookabag’. What follows is a partly animated reading of a popular storybook kids are certain to see in their school library or shopping centre. And once Bookaboo has had his literary fix his imagination is fired and he plays up a storm.
Bookaboo was commissioned in 2008 by the British channel ITV to encourage child and adult literacy. It simultaneously introduces children to the wonders of reading while showing parents how fun story time can be. As the parent of a child with special needs, I can honestly say that my wife and I have often placed the ability to read over the gift of speaking in our prayers for our son. The Christian faith flows from the word of God and those who learn to read it early have an immense advantage when it comes to finding peace in this world. Any program that takes such a positive and creative approach to teaching literacy should be of interest to like-minded parents.
Bookaboo’s only setback is that ABC2 has decided to broadcast it at the strange time of 9:50 AM, well after most reading-age children are in school. Still, as we have discovered, our trusty DVR and the excellent ABC for Kids web site go a long way to providing a solution.