Tramp The Dirt Down
There is such a thing as a video essay canon: a set of revered films and directors that are disproportionately often the subject of videographic criticism and analysis. (In fact, there are several such canons. The YouTubing video essay makers tend to focus on filmmakers such as Kubrick, Fincher, Nolan, and on any director named Anderson. They flock to these household names not just for their artistic merit, but also for the (perceived) promise they hold of steady Patreon revenues. The academic practitioners of the video essay have a canon of their own: less rooted in commercial and contemporary cinema, but not necessarily more eclectic).
Which is why it is encouraging to see a bad film get the video essay treatment. And not just for easy laughs. Turkey Shoot is a 1982 Australian dystopian action film directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith. It is no masterpiece: it was savaged by critics and is considered a prime example of Ozploitation filmmaking. In this video essay for the Australian outlet Realtime, Conor Bateman turns the low-budget actioner into a surreal battle of man versus nature. Bateman sets up the video with an opening scroll referencing Ross Gibson’s writing on the depiction of the Australian landscape on film. Gibson contemplated the place that the sparsely populated landscape takes in the “white sensibility” of its colonial powers: a hostile, unknowable environment.
Bateman cleverly remixes the footage of the film to turn it into an absurd shootout. Characters are seen firing bullets and arrows. The shots of the prisoners they are aiming at however, have been replaced with images of empty landscapes. The result is a montage where white rage is directed towards an impassive, unimpressed natural landscape. An incongruous comedy that reveals the senselessness of the superiority that colonial powers lay claim to.