ABC Television has produced yet another powerful feature-length telemovie based on true events, which will not only captivate and entertain audiences, but should also stimulate controversy and further encourage the acceptance of minority groups.
Riot is set in Sydney between 1972 and 1978, in a time when homosexuality was considered criminal and vilified by the government and church. Police brutality was widespread. Gays had no rights. They were mercilessly sacked from their jobs and expelled from college. Psychiatrists performed shock treatment to cure them of their “ailment”. The general consensus amongst the men of the cloth was that homosexuality was a sickness…a possession…not depression.
This remarkable telemovie follows the endeavours of Lance Gowland (Damon Herriman) a devoted activist for various civil rights causes, who fought for gay solidarity striving for violence prevention, decriminalisation, anti-discrimination and gay relationship recognition. His work towards public awareness led to a colourful march in fancy dress along Oxford Street. He stated it was a party – not a protest. This became the first Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Production values are exceptional in this quality production, something audiences have come to expect from ABC Television. The writers have captured the very essence of this story. The mental traumas experienced by homosexuals and the snowballing effects on their personal lives, their persecution, the horrifying police brutality and the inspiring battle they selflessly fought for law reform and their community’s civil rights.
A talented cast which also includes Xavier Samuel, Kate Box and Jessica de Goux has been assembled to bring this story to the small screen and the 70s have also been cleverly and realistically recreated. Audiences will be transported to a time when homosexuals were generally regarded as a ‘suppressed minority of shirt lifters’. Hopefully this telemovie will convey to conservative audiences that the gay community who were persecuted for their ‘sexual abnormality’, to this very day, only desire social acceptance and the right to live their own lives. (MMo)
Screens on Sunday February 25 at 8:30 pm on ABC & iview.