The Triangle Wars: St Kilda VS Mall

7 Nov

See?

The thing about documentary-making is, it is rife with bias. It has to be. And sometimes, as with Rosie Jones’ The Triangle Wars, the truth slips over your agenda like a lycra glove: it fits whatever you need it to, as long as you have the footage.

This is the story of the proposed super-mall development in the St Kilda triangle. For this reason alone, even Sydneysiders or (question mark?) Adelaiders are going to feel a distinct lack of connection with this offering, but they would find it interesting. This is a film for Melbournites who are interested in the physical heritage of their city, and hippies who hate malls. Don’t get me wrong: Malls suck, but if you’ve ever been to St Kilda on Saturday night, so does it.

Unchain St Kilda is an organisation started in 2007 by a series of St Kilda stereotypes: A French Photographer, the needle-thin and artily-austere mother of a NIDA graduate, University professors, Artists and Restaurateurs, all wearing designer spectacles and those clothes they sell in Toorak for a million billion dollars made to look like rags. Understandably, they don’t want the St Kilda esplanade blocked by 8 Cinemas, 5 levels of parking and 180 terribly plebby shops. They aim to get the Council not to approve it by any means necessary, up to and including getting elected into said Council. Corruption is on the wind with an asinine developer sliding dusty twenties into senior-management’s back pocket and walking away whistling.

Steve is an evil developer. You can tell. You can tell by his teeth, which could have been scripted. You can tell by the many shots of him in public meetings leaning against a wall and having an awful lot of nefarious facial expressions. You can tell by his flippancy, his arrogance, and what seems to be an incredible cultural stupidity. Sometimes he is right: a public action group does not necessarily reflect the will of the public. Except that Unchain St Kilda DOES. It is hard to say if Mr Milligan knew he’d come off as such a stereotype of the goonish, insensitive and blinkered iniquitous tycoon.

Rosie Jones knows her tropes, and she’s pretty lucky to have found them all wandering around Acland Street in berets waving placards. Former Mayor Janet Cribbes comes off pretty damned pernicious as well. Slow-motion candid shots of a person laughing at a party always look evil if juxtaposed with something bad happening: it’s a scientific fact. Former Councillor Dick Gross (honestly) is a garish clown with a desperate need for attention. This makes him come off as ridiculous, comic relief even. The silent former CEO of the Port Phillip Council David Spokes also comes off incredibly malignant and without uttering a word or making a single facial expression. This is either sublime manipulation of three years worth of footage or the former Council were actually a pack of utter bastards (with the exception of Judith Klepner who opposed the development).

Sad abuses of power aside, this film is a heartening display of the grass-roots democratic process: if the people really really REALLY don’t want it, you can’t force them to have it. Serge Thomann, Anna Griffiths, and their ilk struck a rather splendid blow to slow the homogenising of Melbourne, and for that I can only applaud them.

-Lizzie Lamb

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