‘This is what racism looks like’: Filmmaker opens up about Adam Goodes doco

While booing fans often claimed they were reacting to Goodes staging for free kicks, calling out a young girl for a racial slur or his war dance at Carlton fans, others were convinced it was racist.

After a club screening, Swans chairman Andrew Pridham says that everyone sat silently for what must have been 10 minutes, adding: “It was distressing, almost embarrassing looking back [at] just how poorly a lot of people behaved and how unkind they can be.”

'One of our greatest footballers, who happened to be Indigenous ... was literally booed out of the game,' says filmmaker Ian Darling.

‘One of our greatest footballers, who happened to be Indigenous … was literally booed out of the game,’ says filmmaker Ian Darling.Credit:Sydney Film Festival

The chairman of the Swans Foundation, Peter Ivany, says the film was an emotional experience for the son of a Holocaust survivor. “I was a mess, in tears,” he says. “I understand what racial vilification can do. There’s no question it was racist”.

And Eddie McGuire, the TV commentator and Collingwood president, says the documentary left him “heartbroken” about how Goodes left the game. In 2013 McGuire was forced to apologise after he suggested on-air that Goodes could be used to promote the musical King Kong.


Darling,  whose other documentaries include The Oasis and The Oasis: Ten Years Later on homelessness and Paul Kelly: Stories of Me, expects “a pretty heated discussion” around The Final Quarter.

He saw the Goodes controversy as an important story for what he calls a philanthropic project – aimed at encouraging positive social change rather than making a profit. And while the champion footballer was initially not interested in 2015, he was more receptive to an approach two years later.

“My main concern all the way along has been whether or not Adam was ready for the film,” Darling says. “That was very much the first question I ask him in 2017: ‘are you OK with this?’ He said ‘yes, I’m ready and it’s such an important story. I won’t have any involvement in the making of the film but you’ve got my full support’.”

Rather than new interviews, Darling decided to use archival footage in the style of the acclaimed documentaries Senna and Amy.

“Adam did so much talking over that period – far more than I realised,” he says. “The problem was that as a nation, we didn’t listen to him. So you can see as the film unfolds how it has affected him so profoundly.”

Sydney Swans fans supporting Adam Goodes after he was targeted.

Sydney Swans fans supporting Adam Goodes after he was targeted.Credit:James Brickwood

While he explored all the explanations for the booing, Darling came to one conclusion.

“When you see the three years unfolding, we can now see this is what racism looks like and what it sounds like,” he says. “And from the Indigenous perspective, this is what it feels like …

“One of our greatest footballers, who happened to be Indigenous and a proud Australian of the Year, was literally booed out of the game.”


Darling screened The Final Quarter for the footballer’s close friends, including former Swans star Michael O’Loughlin, to check that the issue had been handled sensitively before Goodes watched it by himself.

“We sat and had a big discussion afterwards,” Darling says. “It was a really difficult, challenging screening for him because it obviously brought up so much of the pain that he went through but he could also see the enormous support as well.”

Instead of a conventional cinema run, The Final Quarter will get a television screening and then be “gifted” to sporting clubs, community organisations, companies and schools, with educational material designed for years 5 to 12.

“Sport is such a great way to discuss so many of these difficult issues around race, bullying and history,” Darling says.


He welcomes a second documentary being made on Goodes, The Australian Dream, that looks at racism from a different perspective.

“It’s going to really help keep the conversation alive,” he says.

“What we’re planning on doing is handballing the conversation from one film to the other.”

Garry Maddox is a Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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