Kangaroo – A Love-Hate Story has sparked massive controversy in Australia and globally – this is to no surprise; it is an incendiary, provocative, and unremittingly bare look at the horrors of the kangaroo industry. Kangaroo continues in the tradition of recent eco-activist documentaries such as The Cove or Blackfish but what it lacks in the spit and polish of its spiritual predecessors, it makes up for in its sheer brutality.
This documentary by Australian directorial couple Kate Clere McIntyre and Michael McIntyre is a poignant, and admittedly one-sided, argument about the kangaroo industry presented as a very clunky film. Kangaroo claims that the kangaroo industry, hunting for bushmeat, pest mitigation, and pastime, make up the largest terrestrial wildlife killing globally. This is largely blamed upon European colonisers who couldn’t co-exist with ‘the original Australian’ and instead intended to destroy it. The film takes great advantage of this colonial history, drawing upon ancient archival footage of organised kangaroo hunting pens in the early 19th century and recreating journal extracts from people involved in these massive hunts in the 18th century. The documentary also draws heavily upon guerrilla footage filmed by civilians of illegal poachers hunting at night, this is particularly brutal as we see kangaroos shot through the neck and skull and their joeys being trodden on or clubbed to death.
Kangaroo seeks to have robust discussions about the kangaroo – early in this film the bush animal is established as having a triad of paradoxical associations: pest, resource, and icon. Whilst the kangaroo is explained as a profitable resource globally within the exotic meats industry, clothing, and sportswear there is no real elaboration on the ‘pest’ label that is applied to the animal. The film, quite conveniently for the filmmakers argument, fails to include any real analysis or commentary on the actual impact that kangaroos have on the Australian ecosystem. Within Kangaroo, those working within the kangaroo industry are vilified – the robust discussion the film seeks is conveniently one handed as they are not given the screen time for counter-arguments or providing factual information. Contrary information and causes are dismissed as either false or as propaganda. Ironically enough, this becomes the films downfall as it becomes increasingly more similar to the skewed propaganda that it intends to criticize.
In a film that feels very bloated with information, it’s important to consider whether it’s actually necessary for the argument whether the seemingly endless videos of murdered joeys, decapitated kangaroo heads, and fields of corpses are actually more important than developing a fair argument. This inflammatory savage footage seems to be more important to the filmmakers and their perspective than informing the audience on the whole picture of the situation, why kangaroos are considered by most Australians to be ‘pests’. Whilst it may be fighting for a good cause, it strikes me as emotionally manipulative – Kangaroo is a paradoxical documentary with an argument that is both poignant and incredibly biased.