Black And White is a lot more engrossing than its cookie cutter equal rights presentation would suggest. Yes, the film is just a dramatisation of the courtroom battle that abolished capital punishment in Southern Australia, but the story has a slight problem. Max, the black fella (to use movie the movies wince-inducingly accurate parlance) still served fourteen years for the crime he was accused of. Much of the film concerns itself on the thorny problem of if he did or did not rape and murder a nine year old girl. The law in Australia still says he did.

Most of the film is painted in the black and white the title suggests. Max is innocent and hasb been fitted up by the police and Charles Dance’s nasty prosecutor. And then, about twenty minutes before the final appeal there is an extraordinary scene where Dance explains to party guests what he believes happened. Not unlike Kenneth Branagh in Rabbit Proof Fence, Dance plays a man of principled, strongly held believes about the law. And the film dramatises his version of events to maybe cast a small degree of doubt in our eyes. No-one would be convinced by this version, the other innocent one has already been drummed into us, but in trying to understand its villain, the film actively engages with its own states of grey.

Rabbit Proof Fence is the most obvious touchstone to this film, right down to the final reel digital documentary footage of Max as he is now. In the end though Max is a minor character in a film about his life. It is important that historically these cases are looked at and seen as an important part of Australian history. But the heroes are all white, the story is all about granting white justice to the native. And if Max did not do it, there is as he suggests ‘one lucky bugger out there’ who got away with murder.