The Opening Night festivities will be followed by a film chosen for its celebration of a politician of principle and vision.
Tony Benn: Will and Testament is a feature-length documentary about the late British political firebrand, socialist and tireless fighter against privilege and injustice filmed over the last two years of his life.
Screening three weeks out from a State election and providing a trenchant comment on the antics at Federal level, Will and Testament is a heartening reminder of what integrity politics looks like.
Labour’s most controversial late 20th-century figure, Benn believed a politician’s duty was to make changes to the system for the betterment of the people but saw that ideal degenerate into party-power-obsessed pollies forcing the people to change for the good of the system.
An MP for 47 years from 1950 and a Cabinet minister under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan in the 1960s and 1970s, Benn inherited a peerage on his father’s death, which he rejected, fighting to stay in the House of Commons.
He was a tireless campaigner for workers and the poor, and against war, exploitation, the bomb and Thatcherism. In his 80s he refused to be sidelined as harmless and was “chuffed” to still get the odd death threat. As an historical record, the film traces the decline of political culture from the great post-war visionaries who created the National Health Service to the partisan power-seeking of today.
It’s also a moving and intimate portrait. Benn, who died last year aged 88, was a loving husband and father and there’s a poignant scene where he talks about the death of his adored wife, who he says “taught me how to live and how to die”. His intelligence, enthusiasm and charisma radiate from the screen.