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Black And White review

Based on a real-life Australian court case, this worthy legal melodrama may lack subtlety but has plenty of freshness, courtesy of some committed lead performances.

The year is 1958, the place is Adelaide and the accused is an uneducated Aborigine (David Ngoombujarra) charged with the rape and murder of a nine-year-old white girl. To his defence come callow lawyers Robert Carlyle and Kerry Fox but, with a racist police force and the might of the English establishment against them, their client looks sure to hang.

Like Rabbit-Proof Fence before it, Craig Lahiff’s film is guilty of some blatant Pom-bashing (with Charles Dance happily playing along as the vile Crown Prosecutor), and more could have been made of Rupert Murdoch’s involvement. After all, the future tycoon made his name by turning the case into a national cause célèbre. Yet it remains a gripping, well-crafted tale, lovingly made from the terrific period detail up, and its urgent plea for tolerance is as pertinent as ever.

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