Knocking the Who Do You Think You Are? concept out of the ring, THE PANTHER WITHIN is a winning technical and emotional knock-out of a film.
In a tag team bout of several suspenseful rounds, film-maker Edoardo Crismani and his mother Barbara embark on a search to unravel the mystery surrounding Barbara’s father Joe Murray, an indigenous boxing champion who danced and sang vaudeville, and married a blue-eyed blond white woman in 1930s Australia. Astonishing!
On the ropes as far as reliable historical documentation regarding Joe Murray, mother and son journey across the land, from Adelaide to Mildura, Melbourne and Ballarat. They trawl through libraries, meet with researchers, historians and Aboriginal elders, delving into the hidden heritage of the man known as The Black Panther, trying to piece his story together.
Although a well-known boxer, Joe Murray’s past was shrouded in mystery and Ed and Barb came up against many contradictory and misleading details and records.
“Due to the government policies treating Aboriginal people as the lowest form of people, a dying race and part of the flora and fauna of Australia, Grandpop understandably adopted other identities to survive and help his family, but for future generations that left very little to go on,” said Edoardo.
Persistent and painstaking perseverance pays off as Joe Murray is revealed as a cultural chameleon, a clever man who did not allow the oppressive racism of government policies or white Australian laws to make less of him, as he wove his way through those barriers for the good of his family and himself.
Whilst the Who Do You Think You Are? series is wrapped in the cult of celebrity, THE PANTHER WITHIN is about ordinary people, determined to connect with their past, doing it for and by themselves, exploring heritage and driven by an extraordinary yearning to belong.
Unravelling the mystery strengthens the already tight bond between mother and son, a relationship that is potently and palpably endearing from the beginning but grows as they share this emotionally charged quest.
Entertaining and enlightening, THE PANTHER WITHIN premieres on NITV (Channel 34 Free to Air) on Wednesday 15 March at 8pm.