Riot and Revenge: Symmetry and the Cronulla Riot in Abe Forsythe’s Down Under
Abstract: Abe Forsythe’s Down Under (2016) is the first narrative feature film about the Cronulla riot—the infamous event on 11 December 2005 where over 5000 white Australians, responding to a minor local incident, descended on Cronulla Beach in Sydney and proceeded to harass, chase and bash anybody who they perceived to be of Middle Eastern appearance. In the following nights, a series of violent retaliatory attacks took place, as community leaders called for calm. Suvendrini Perera identifies how a symmetrical narrative had emerged in the wake of the riot and its aftermath, whereby Cronulla Beach “comes to stand for a paired sequence of events, the riot and the revenge, in a fable of equivalence in which two misguided groups . . . mirror each other’s ignorance and prejudices”. This article considers how Down Under reinforces the distortive implications of this “riot and revenge” narrative by maintaining a structural equilibrium—through the rigorous balancing of its narrative and characters, and formally, via its soundtrack, cinematography and editing patterns. In so doing, and despite its antiracist sentiments, the film ultimately dilutes the issue of race and obscures the power imbalances that informed the riot, and which continue to this day.