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Animating The Facts - Bruce Petty Interview

Author: Laura Parker
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
3D’s Laura Parker speaks with infamous Australian satirist/cartoonist Bruce Petty about his new film, Global Haywire.

Bruce Petty, Academy Award-winning Australian filmmaker and cartoonist, thinks he has an answer to a most pressing question. A question that’s weighed down global relations and given rise to heated public debates; a question that’s been the cause of massive unrest and tension in the world; a question that is simple enough to ask: how can the seemingly irreconcilable differences between East and West be reconciled-

Petty has tackled this question with an original approach in his feature film debut, Global Haywire – a documentary that draws on the power of satire to find a workable answer. Petty gathers a committee of real and animated figures in the hope of unraveling the history of Eastern and Western relations to find out just where it all went wrong. The commentary is provided by some of the world’s top experts on the subject, including Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali and Robert Fisk. But the real gem is Petty’s ability to create a whole-encompassing metaphor with his animated figures.

“I’m a veteran at finding metaphors,” Petty says. “Being in the political cartoon business all these years has paid off. It’s a lot to ask an audience, deciphering one metaphor inside another, but I think most people will be able to follow it.

“I wanted to use cartoons to tackle this tricky issue because I think when you animate something you can reach a wider audience. When you write something you’re really writing to a specific audience; when you draw it you know everyone is going to be able to understand it.”

The film is written, directed and animated by Petty, whose career includes winning an Oscar and traveling the world working as a cartoonist for publications such as Punch, The New Yorker and The Age. He is one of Australia’s best known political satirists, whose cartoons have been described as ‘doodle-bombs’ for their ability to link together multiple ideas about people and institutions. Petty’s work has taken him around many of world’s trouble spots, including Vietnam, Timor and Pakistan, as well as to the United States for regular first-hand coverage of the elections. His first-hand knowledge of societies proved useful in the making of Global Haywire.

“The whole thing took around four years to make,” he says. “It’s hugely ambitious. There are lots of films covering fragments of the story of East and West – my film is just another way of telling it. What I really wanted to do was see if animation proved an effective way of exploring this topic.

“The trap with satire now is that people have stopped doing anything about it. It’s a great weapon – but only if it moves people to action. I don’t think that’s happening. People have to stop expecting things to change without their involvement.

“I want people to look at how things happened. I want them to question the current situation. Just how did the West get to be on top of the pile-”

The idea for Global Haywire came to Petty after reading the work of British journalist and political activist George Monbiot and Indian novelist Arundhati Roy. He interviews both in the film, as well as a variety of Lebanese and US students. The film also draws on archival footage to demonstrate globalization, diminishing oil reserves and terrorism in the suggestion that madness is indeed at the heart of our global situation.

“I want our students to get this message and look at institutions like the UN and the IMF and ask themselves: are they serving our interests or the global interests-” Petty says.

“From that, I think the solution is clear. We have to listen to what other cultures say; we have to learn from the Arabs, the Indians, the Chinese, etc. Of course, the nice thing would be if this film encouraged other filmmakers to do something, to attack these subjects in unique ways. People have become more educated, and that’s all there is to it.”

WHAT: Global Haywire
WHEN: In cinemas 10 April