“The dingo’s got my baby!”
Fred Schepisi’s A Cry in the Dark is the fictionalized account of the true story of Michael & Lindy Chamberlain, a Seventh-Day Adventist preacher & his wife, whose 10-week old baby, Azaria, was taken from their unzipped & otherwise unattended tent by a dingo on August 17, 1980 while they were on a camping vacation at Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory Outback of Australia. Baby Azaria was never found. An initial inquest was held and the couple was exonerated & the local police criticized for their handling of the case. But the Northern Territory authorities believed there were inconsistencies in their story and re-opened the case: Lindy was charged with her daughter’s murder & her husband an accessory after the fact. The Chamberlain’s are portrayed brilliantly by Meryl Streep & Sam Neill.
The case, the first in which Australia’s beloved wild dog and a symbol of The Outback was accused of hunting humans, polarized the country. As soon as the news broke, the Chamberlain’s orthodox Christian beliefs were the target of vicious prejudice & innuendo. Amongst the accusations: Azaria means “Sacrifice in the wilderness”; Azaria was always dressed in black; Lindy is a witch!! The couple tried to use the media to debunk the unfounded statements but instead they were manipulated like marionettes as the lies were instead propagated to sell papers & advertisements.
A Cry in the Dark and Six Degrees of Separation are the most well-known of Schepisi’s 17 directorial features. Not coincidentally, they are the only two which received Oscar Nominations, both for Best Actress: Stockard Channing in 1994 lost to Holly Hunter as Ada McGrath in The Piano at the 66th Academy Awards; and Streep received the 8th of her now far & away record 17 Academy Award Nominations, but lost to Jodie Foster for her brilliant portrayal of gang rape victim, Sarah Tobias, in The Accused at the 61st Oscars.
Meryl Streep has won 3 Oscars – Best Actress twice for Sophie’s Choice in ’83 and The Iron Lady at this year’s Ceremony, and Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer in 1980. Only Katharine Hepburn has won more acting Oscars with 4, all Best Actress Awards (Morning Glory, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter, and On Golden Pond); the only other actress with 3 wins is The Greatest Ingrid Bergman, who Streep mirrors with one Supporting and two Bests (Gaslight, Anastasia, and Supporting for Murder on the Orient Express). Jack Nicholson, the most Oscar Nominated actor with 12, also has 2 Best Actor and a Supporting Actor Academy Awards (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Supporting for Terms of Endearment, and As Good As It Gets); as does Walter Brennan, all Supporting (Come & Get It, Kentucky, and The Westerner).
A Cry in the Dark, ranked the #9 Courtroom Drama by the American Film Institute in June 2008, is a fantastic motion picture about the dangers of the mob mentality and Rumor – That Wingless Flyer. It paints a dark picture of intolerance towards & disrespect for others’ religious beliefs, irrespective of how ultra-conservative they may be – a pitfall of which I am sometimes guilty. And it comes down harshly on sensationalism and the advancement of polarization by the news corps in the interest of politics & capitalism – a lesson that cannot be overstated in today’s Fox News/blogosphere/MSNBC/New York Post world.
So, yes: I will try to be more accepting of the intolerant, Christian conservative, family values, anti-Muslim movement that is so prevalent & increasingly more powerful here in post-9/11/01 America beginning just as soon as this Blog is published. And I’ll bet you a bag of fire & brimstone that if you rent it, you will too! “Why are you so confident?”, you might ask: Because just like an obedient & proper Seventh-Day Adventist’s wife, this is a film which does not suck, (http://en.allexperts.com/q/Seventh-Day-Adventists-2318/2011/10/oral-sex-marriage.htm).