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Winners – The Other Facts of Life (1985)

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clip Trouble with the police education content clip 1, 2, 3

Original classification rating: G. This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

Ben (Ken Talbot) teams up with animal activist Esme (Sheila Florance) to break into a factory farm to free battery hens. He is shocked by the conditions. A news crew and the police arrive, and after a tough egg-throwing battle, Esme and Ben are taken into custody. The police officers take Ben home to his parents. Ben explains the problems of the world to the officers and wins them over, to the bewilderment of his stressed parents.

Curator’s notes

A lovely mix of comedy and serious issues. The trauma of the battery hens is counterbalanced by the comic arrest scene. The exchange with Ben and the police officers in his room, while his parents look on, is beautifully paced and utterly delightful.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows animal activist Esme (Sheila Florance) taking battery hens out of cages as 12-year-old Ben (Ken Talbot) watches. A station wagon carrying a television news crew appears followed closely by a police car with sirens wailing. After a short egg-throwing battle Ben and Esme are put into the police car. Ben is escorted home by the police and shows them information about nuclear weapons as his parents (Dennis Miller and Anne Grigg) look on.

Educational value points

  • In this clip the older woman and younger boy are united in their battle to free the hens, highlighting the fact that political activism is not the exclusive preserve of the young. Esme is clearly an experienced activist as her interactions with the police and media demonstrate. She is well known to both and is viewed by the media as a sympathetic local character who represents good news value.
  • The action in this clip quickly switches from the serious to the comedic. Ben wanders around the barn, disturbed by the battery hens, and in one shot grips a wire fence while on the look out, making him seem like a caged hen. The mood changes to one of humour as Esme and Ben throw eggs at the police while being interviewed by the television reporter who Esme has called to the scene. The mood becomes serious again when the police bring Ben home.
  • The clip highlights the playfulness of the script. When Ben is brought home by the police to investigate some serious allegations, the viewer assumes that these are about his actions at the battery hen farm when in fact the police are following up on the information Ben has given them about the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. The seriousness of the police and of Ben contrasts with the bewilderment of Ben’s parents.
  • This clip features three major scenes: the freeing of the hens in the shed, the egg fight, and Ben’s talk with the police in his bedroom. The soundtrack underlines these changes in mood, from the sombre music and the sound of hens clucking and flapping their wings to the cheerful, lively egg-fight music and the quiet reflective music of the bedroom scene.
  • In Australia more than 10.5 million hens live in battery cages similar to those shown here – 40-cm-high wire-mesh cages with a floor area of 450 sq cm. According to the RSPCA, the hens are unable to stand properly, preen their feathers, stretch or flap their wings, forage for food or find a nest in which to lay their eggs. Free-range housing systems are considered the most humane option as hens can roam outside during the day and roost in sheds at night.
  • Soon after philosopher Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation (1975) was published, animal liberation groups started up in Australia. Animal liberationists believe animals have feelings, that the current treatment of animals is immoral and that people exploit animals because they are a different species. Animal liberation groups lobby governments, conduct letter-writing campaigns, hold protests, rescue battery hens and ducks and organise media coverage.
  • Concerns about nuclear weapons such as those held by Ben were widespread in the 1980s when this film was made. The Cold War (hostility between the USA and the Soviet Union) was still in existence, the US president, Ronald Reagan, massively increased US defence spending in the mid-1980s and proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI or Star Wars), and the French Government continued to test nuclear weapons in the Pacific.
  • Morris Gleitzman (1953–), one of Australia’s most successful authors, was born in England and emigrated to Australia in 1969. He worked as scriptwriter for The Norman Gunston Show before writing the script of The Other Facts of Life. He later wrote a novel based on the script, published by McPhee Gribble as one of a series of novels based on the Winners series.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

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  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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