“Hired Assassins” is a documentary that explores Australia’s political landscape as seen through the sharp eyes of its best editorial cartoonists. In it, we are plunged into the editorial world of daily newspapers and political satire as the cartoonists attempt to distill humour from the chaotic blend of world events.
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Geoff Pryor, ‘We’d love to mate, but we’re choc-a block’, .
“Hired Assassins” examines Australia’s political life through the stinging lens of satire. Cartoonists Bill Leak, Geoff Pryor, Rod Emmerson, Warren Brown and David Rowe take us into the fast-paced world of news and current affairs, with each bringing their own brand of humour to the task of bringing the latest into public purview.
“Hired Assassins” was filmed over a 6 month period starting in October 2002. As many will remember, this was a time of immense tension: a time in which a barrage of domestic and international events threw Australia, as well as the rest of the world, into social and political upheaval. This was a time where the sense of uncertainty was compounded by a fear of terrorism on the international and domestic frontiers – a fear that seems today to have reached a fever-pitch. Australia was still reeling from the huge loss of life that the Bali bombing engendered, and America from 9/11. The Howard government’s role in the ‘Children Overboard’ incident, where they alleged that asylum seekers had thrown children into the sea in order to secure safe passage to Australia, was being brought under scrutiny by an official inquiry.
And so fear of the unknown and the threat of terrorism came to dominate politics, the beginning of a legacy we still see today. Australia, under the leadership of the Howard government, joined the United States with its allies in the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ in an effort to fight this battle in Iraq. Australia also hen Australia was still mourning the loss of life after the Bali Bombing. The sense of uncertainty was compounded by a fear of terrorism on the domestic and international fronts. Against this backdrop, the cartoonists took to the difficult task of caricaturing some of the events that begun to grip the world: the war in Iraq, the Bali bombing, immigration policy as well as party leadership.
Director Helen Barrow takes us behind the scenes and into the creative minds of Australia’s best cartoonists, whose work requires a near impossible balancing act of producing a constant flow of provocative cartoons on a deadline. It is the story of the challenging and often overwhelming task of creating political satire and having the courage to say out loud what people are thinking and fearing. We see both the creative processes behind the artists’ work, as well as the stress that comes with having to be sharp, original, and perhaps most importantly, funny on a deadline.