Peter Skryznecki Speech Essay

A perfect related text needs to encapsulate the masses, to inspire the uninspirable, and to expose a true sense of belonging that is neither superficial nor false. Ladies and Gentlemen would you say belonging is fundamental to all human beings, including yourself? Macquarie dictionary defines belonging as ‘happiness felt in a secure relationship’ but in reality, belonging is a precursor to knowing and accepting one’s self. Through comparing different texts I have come to the realisation that a sense of belonging comes from a sense of identity, both cultural and personal.

This concept is epitomised within Kate Woods, ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ film and further developed within Peter Skrzynecki’s poems Feliks Skryznecki and St Patricks College. These texts have a central theme of ‘belonging’ from a cultural sense and deal with the aspects of feeling isolated from their inherited culture. ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ tells the story of Josie Alibrandi, a 17 year old girl in the mist of her HSC year, struggling to find where she belongs both within her school and her place within her Italian heritage.

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In the opening scene we are immediately introduced to an Italian culture. The first image is a close up of tomato paste in a large tub that emphasises cultural context and ‘Tinterella Di Luna’, a classic Italian song is being played on a record player, a diagetic sound which sets the cultural contexts of the film. The camera pans around the courtyard showing a celebration with families laughing and interacting with one another and pealing tomatoes which is a popular Italian tradition. It is filmed in a ‘home video’ manner with an almost sepia tone to emphasise the family essence of the scene.

There are close ups of all the faces that are happy and participating in the tomato activity which delivers an intimate setting. The camera then freezes in a close up as it reaches Josie Alibrandi. She is unenthusiastic and has a negative persona about the celebration. A voiceover comes in where she announces the celebration as ‘wog day’. This term is usually degrading to ethnic groups and is used as an insult, thus her using this expression shows her pessimistic attitude towards the culture and tradition. “It may be where I’m from, but do I really belong here? ’ This quote from Josie communicates to the audience that she feels isolated from her culture and doesn’t see herself as Italian. This theme of isolation is similar to that in ‘Feliks Skryznecki’. The poem is a tribute to the poet’s father’s dignity and stoicism in the face of loss and hardships in relation to immigration. The subject of culture is echoed throughout this poem. The poet in the poem refers to his father’s ‘polish friends’ indicating that although he accepts his polish culture, he himself does not feel he is polish. The music is then interrupted as Josie puts on a modern 1990’s rock song.

This highlights her youth and ignorance towards her Italian heritage. A long shot of the family shows an outpour of rage and highlights the obvious isolation of Josie from the rest of her family. When this happens and she puts on the Italian song once more, the camera then does a close up of Josie looking irritated. This shows the barrier between the Josie and the family and how they don’t understand one another. Josie then leaves the celebration to hang out with her friends. They are typical Australian 17 year olds who want to go to the beach.

There is a close up of the p-plate which emphasises the youth and ignorance of the girls. As Josie leaves her nonna is upset and gets angry with Josie’s mother Katrina and Katrina defends her daughter. Katrina is comfortable with her Italian identity and doesn’t understand why Josie can’t conform and accept her heritage and most importantly make her nonna happy. This is a parallel experience to that of Peter, as he refers to seeing his father in his element as being “happy as I’ve never been”. It shows that both Peter and Josie have rejected their identity and as a consequence, feel as if they don’t belong.

Katrina and Josie’s mother daughter relationship is alike that of Peter and Feliks. There is obvious admiration poured throughout the poem although they may not have the same views culturally. This affection is shown in the poem by use of possessive pronouns and descriptive language such as in ‘My gentle Father’ which sets a protective and proud emotion. Josie’s mother has done it tough her whole life, from being kicked out of home by her own father, to being abandoned by the man of her dreams, but she has overcame these hardships just as Feliks overcame the adversities of being an immigrant in Australia.

This strength is shown when Peter explains “never once did I hear him complain when twice they dug cancer out of his foot” and the direct quote “at least I’m alive”. The use of a direct quote gives us insight into the positive attitude Feliks has even after the hardships. Josie attends Saint Martha’s girl’s college, a similar situation to that of Peter who attended ‘St Patricks College’ and wrote a poem about his experiences. The camera is in an extreme long shot as we are introduced to the school with a mass of swarming girls in matching uniforms.

This prestigious school is a contrast to that of Josie’s home life which is simple and it becomes obvious that Josie is an outsider in this environment. Josie refers to St Martha’s as ‘the best school’; this is similar to Peters experience in ‘St Patricks College’ in which he re-tells his high school experience and how he feels he doesn’t belong there. Peter tells of how his mother, after seeing her employers son’s “enrolled him at St Pats… wanting only ‘what was best’”. Both families are working class and to send a child to high-status schools such as these is an honour and the use of ‘employers’ cements the status of the family.

Josie states that at St Martha’s “it’s all about what your father does”. This immediately indicated Josie is an outsider as she has a lack of a father figure in her life. This alienation is alike to that of Peter who when he leaves school refers to ‘darkness’. This unsettling statement makes it obvious that Peter after “eight years” still hasn’t “Luceat Lux Vestra” – (let your [his] light shine). By exploring both Kate Woods, “Looking for Alibrandi” and Peter Skrzynecki’s ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’ and ‘St Patricks College’ I have exposed how a sense of identity leads to a sense of belonging and revealed what makes a quality text.


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