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State of Shock (1991)


Aboriginal alcoholic Alwyn Peter traces the events in his life. Alwyn’s mother Rachel talks about the effect of forced relocation on the family and recalls Alwyn’s self-mutilation in his early life. State of Shock also interviews Alwyn’s wife, Ruth and includes footage of Mapoon in Far North Queensland.

Curator’s notes

State of Shock is a revealing look at the compulsive disorder of alcoholism. Alwyn Peter struggles to overcome the problem but circumstances and personal traits overcome him. Filmmaker David Bradbury has successfully won the trust of the Peter family and the resulting documentary is consequently revealing. Bradbury’s credits include, Fond Memories of Cuba, Wamsley’s War, Jabiluka and Loggerheads.

Secondary curator’s notes

by Romaine Moreton

State of Shock tentatively attempts to explain the dysfunction experienced by an Indigenous family within the frame of dispossession and loss of cultural practice. The access to the personal story of all folk involved in the making of this film raises the ethical question of filming people whilst they are intoxicated.

Any sympathy or empathy for the main characters is corroded by the filmmaker’s depiction of alcholism as spectacle. The intention to make a link between loss of land and loss of control over personal motivations is encumbered by the dominant imagery of Aboriginal alcoholism, and any real possibility of understanding alcoholism as a condition contextualised by the harsh reality experienced by the Indigenous characters is compromised.

State of Shock, whatever it’s aspirations, offers no more than that; a shocking depiction of Aborigines in states of drunken disorder. The real sympathy is with the elders of the clan – mother and grandmother – who are in the impossible position of trying to maintain a cohesive, functional family environment. While this film attempts to access the inner turmoil of the main characters by introducing issues such as forced removal from homelands and living in exile on another clan’s land, State of Shock's goal remains unrealised.