| Salute Cinema Review
D. Matt Norman
“Everything is everything.” This stoical phrase one of several coined by Africa-Americans in the volatile times of the 1960s and 70s that would become a trope of an era, capturing in a matter-of-fact way the reality of oppression, despair and the imminence of death. It is simple, powerful, elegant and symmetrical. It is also mysterious, complex and asymmetrical. It is evoked and becomes a statement of fact on viewing Matt Norman’s captivating and compelling film “Salute”.
The opening minutes provide a dynamic collage describing the political ruptures of the era across the globe. These moments in the film lead one to conclude that ‘then’ is ‘now’, when looking at the world in a similar way today. What makes ‘then’ unique is a character like Peter Norman, the film’s cynosure.
The film manages to iconise and be iconoclastic in equal measure. For many across several generations the photographic still of the Black Power salute from the 1968 summer Olympics in Mexico is highly familiar and the subjects of fascination are the two African-American athletes Tommy Smith and John Carlos. Peter Norman, the silver medallist in that 200m final, we are made to realise is an equal participant in the protest.
Norman did not raise a fist but opened his heart and pinned a badge over it, a simple gesture of solidarity in humanity, which would be of detriment to his athletic. The film with some subtlety suggests the idea that Norman may have been the victim of the same racism faced by Carlos and Smith.
We come to know that the Australian Athletics Association effectively banned him from the 1972 Munich Olympics, and that he was not invited to attend the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, though still holding the Australian national record in the 200m.
Politics features heavily in this film but what also makes it consistently potent is that it never loses sight of the high quality athleticism and sportsmanship of each actor. ‘Then’, these men were superlative in several ways and that is what distinguishes that time and Peter Norman from ‘now’, despite everything still being everything.