Balanced it is not, but Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story proves to be a bluntly effective, in a pry-your-eyes-open-with-a-crowbar kind of way, piece of animal welfare advocacy. It stacks up a mountain of evidence in support of the “love” portion of its title, while the “hate” part gets cursory, comparatively slim, airtime. It is clear though, there exists a perverse dichotomy in Australia’s relationship with its seemingly cherished icon — “schizoid,” as one talking head in the doco puts it. On the one hand, the kangaroo is held up as a symbol of pride and identity, emblazoned across corporate brands and inextricable from a nation’s image. Yet lurking behind the slick optics is a barbaric, insufficiently regulated industry built on slaughter, assigning the fate of these animals into the realm of pestilence and profit.
A more measured, studied analysis into the nature of damage that kangaroos are said to inflict on farmland wouldn’t have hurt. But directors Kate McIntyre Clere and Michael McIntyre do have a strict agenda: to prioritise public awareness of the industry’s cruel, unhygienic practices and application of wobbly math to sustain their operations. Less sleekly made an eco-thriller than The Cove, Kangaroo nevertheless is charged by an activistic swagger, featuring clandestinely obtained footage of night time culls, globe-trotting efforts to thwart roo-meat exports, and graphic, beyond-horrific images of shot-up, fly-ridden carcasses. It’s a necessarily upsetting portrait of cultural and ecological disconnect, beckoning a nation to confront the savagery, and protect what should be its most prized natural treasure.