Simple sequencing brings untold power to Adam Goodes' story

When the Adam Goodes documentary The Final Quarter begins in 2012, he is a universally lauded indigenous footballer speaking happily to Mike Sheahan about his achievements and eyeing off one more AFL premiership with the Sydney Swans to round off the picture.

What took place between then and his retirement, amid the torrent of boos that effectively hounded Goodes out of the game, is powerfully and often damningly documented by Ian Darling in a film that takes the approach of simply stitching a succession of moments, words and actions together in the chronological sequence in which they occurred.

By doing so, Darling dispenses with the faulty nature of memory, while also exposing the maddening fact that so many influential voices in Australian sport and life were complicit in Goodes' hounding by actively goading it on, criticising him in the most ignorant manner, or simply choosing not to speak up in support.

There is more than a hint of Asif Kapadia's influential 2011 documentary Senna, about the late Formula One champion, in the way Darling weaves archive footage together with music, the occasional sweeping shot of Sydney or Melbourne, and dictionary definitions for "racism", "ape" and "war dance".

Telling and confronting, too, is the way that Goodes' press conference the morning after his racial vilification by a 13-year-old female Collingwood supporter during the Swans' Friday night victory over the Magpies at the SCG to commence the 2013 indigenous round is shown to be far more than what it was twisted into by the likes of Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones. Goodes' repeated calls for understanding and education are discarded, as the contention that he singled out a 13-year-old girl is repeated ad infinitum.

When the Collingwood president Eddie McGuire recalls the racially hurtful words of his predecessor Allan McAlister by quipping on radio about Goodes and King Kong, there is a sense of shame at how he gets off so lightly. This is particularly apparent when a few days later, speaking emotionally on radio, he attempts to draw a parallel between his experience and that of Goodes - there simply isn't one, and it is clear the lesson has not been learned.

The following year, as Goodes accepts his honour as Australian of the Year and pushes causes such as indigenous recognition in the Australian Constitution, the booing begins. Initially, Goodes refers to it as a mark of respect, as opposing supporters try to distract him from playing well. But its growing and ultimately oppressive intensity is accompanied not by support for Goodes from on high, but increasing questions about whether he is talking out of turn on race. As Jake Niall wrote perceptively for The Age in 2014, citing the writer Shelby Steele's view about two types of African-American public figures, the ''challengers'' and ''bargainers''.

"Goodes is a pretty mild challenger by black American or even indigenous Australian standards, but he has taken up the cudgels, in a fiercer way, than any other highly visible Aboriginal sportsman (besides the much less temperate, or credible Anthony Mundine). While Michael Long has challenged via his actions - including his march - his tone has been without a confrontational edge. He is also a former player - which removes him from the centre square of race debates. Goodes, intentionally or not, is our challenger on race conduct in the AFL. Sadly, elements within the football public can't accept this kind of challenge."

It all comes to a head during the following year's indigenous round when Goodes chooses to, after the fashion of the Maori Haka, celebrate a goal against Carlton by performing an indigenous war dance that he has recently learned alongside teammates such as Lewis Jetta. Crossing to the Fox Footy studio at halftime, the "editorialising" by Barry Hall, Dermott Brereton and above all, Eddie McGuire, that Goodes has done the wrong thing -- after Dennis Cometti makes a similar indication in commentary -- leaves the sourest taste in the mouth.

Certainly Goodes, who fronts the press once again the following morning, can be seen visibly hurt by how much hostility confronts him. In that moment he is not so much a footballer surrounded by journalists as much as an indigenous man surrounded by white inquisitors.

From there the booing only gets more intense, as the AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan prevaricates and The Footy Show's Sam Newman incites crowds to inflict further punishment. About this time the commentator Sean Kelly, having been predictably harangued by Bolt for defending Goodes, concluded wearily for The Monthly:

"We should not allow the surface of that debate to conceal the much greater stakes that lie just beneath: our ability as a nation to have an honest conversation about race. To be able to pause for a moment when somebody suggests racism might play a role in our national life, and consider what that means, rather than coating ourselves in reflexive outrage. To listen when the few indigenous people with a public voice explain the challenges they face."

The AFL is shown to be good at gestures, and one-off shows of strength, namely when Goodes absents himself from a match against Adelaide and the rest of the league turns out to show support for him. But the shallow nature of this action is exposed by how the unity is only maintained without Goodes on the field: when he returns, so do the boos, and he retires without much in the way of support apart from his own club's. McLachlan apologised the following year, but the delay said it all.

At the end of Goodes' playing career, Collingwood's coach Nathan Buckley is shown not wanting to talk about all that has taken place, in doing so providing a signal example of what Waleed Aly described as the cause of all the opprobrium directed at Goodes: "What happens is, the minute an Indigenous man stands up and is something other than compliant, the backlash is huge and it is them who are creating division and destroying our culture. And that is ultimately what we boo. We boo our discomfort."

The Final Quarter revisits that discomfort with an honest and unmerciful eye. It deserves to be widely seen.