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Australia 2011
Directed by
Natalie Van Den Dungen
59 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Persecution Blues: The Battle For The Tote

You don’t need to be fan of dirty rock n roll to appreciate Natalie Van Den Dungen’s raw, impassioned documentary about The Tote, the iconic Collingwood pub that has been been home to Melbourne's grunge scene for the past three decades. The film is divided in to two halves. The first half sets the scene with a potted history of performances and interviews with bands like Magic Dirt, The Drones and Dave Graney and the Lurid Yellow Mist. It’s exciting, vibrant stuff and makes for a nice companion piece to last year’s Autoluminescent: Rowland S. Howard, Howard, needless to say, being one of the Tote’s most famous alumni.

The second part of the doco is a more sober account of the crisis that The Tote faced at the end of 2009 when the Victorian State Government introduced changes to the Liquor Licensing legislation in order to curb the rise in alcohol-fuelled violence in the CBD. The irony, which the bureaucrats failed to appreciate, was that the violence was coming from King Street clubs which would never ever play the Tote’s kind of rock n roll. Notwithstanding, The Tote was lumped in the same "high risk" category and forced to close earlier amd hire more security, eventually forcing owner Bruce Milne to pull the plug on the iconic venue. This led to the SLAM rally which saw 20,000 people march on the Victorian parliament and a measure of reprieve for the pub which re-opened with new owners. It is heartening that The Tote lives on but the bad news is that similar trends are occurring on the other side of the Yarra, with St Kilda venues under threat from trendies who are into designer bars and chill out lounges, not grunge music and sticky carpet.  Enjoy it while you can.

DVD Extras: 90 mins of additional footage including exclusive interviews and live performances; Q & Q with Natalie Van Den Dungen, Bruce Milne and the SLAM team; A Brief and Unfinished History of The Tote

Available from: Madman




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