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Salute

The Olympics and politics have been volatile bedfellows.  Foraying into Nazi Germany for the 1936 games to the 1972 ‘Black September’ Munich crisis, the ’sport of champions’ hasn’t escaped unscathed.  Salute looks at a more peaceful protest which changed the lives of its participants, becoming a moment of genuine solidarity.  The fact that this event is still talked about proves the influence an unspoken gesture has in galvanising debate.
The 1968 Mexico Olympics came at a time of massive upheaval.  Fanning the flames of protest worldwide, the assassination of Martin Luther King and the ongoing Vietnam War polarised people.  With the Civil Rights Movement attacked from arch conservative forces, three athletes decided to unite in comradeship.  Coming second in the 200 metre final, Australian sprinter Peter Norman joined his fellow winners Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the dais. Whilst Smith and Carlos raised their hands in the black power salute, Norman wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge showing his support for their cause.  The resulting image came to define a decade and the men as its repercussions were still felt nearly forty years later.
Released two years after his death, Salute becomes a touching tribute to a man determined to do a decent thing.  Disgusted with his country’s embrace of the White Australia Policy, Peter Norman used a measured approach in conveying his thoughts.  In a country still lauding criminals as folk heroes, Norman showed true heroism in sacrificing his own moment of glory in order to make a profound statement.  The disgraceful attitude of high ranking officials following this exposed the hypocrisy within an establishment supposedly representing social inclusion.  Fighting against a biased media and high society racism, Norman’s inspiring tale is one of a survivor who agitated for change on the world stage. 
Salute’s engrossing story is further enhanced in its exploration of external events.  Delving into the mindset of a generation scarred by war and bigotry, the film reflects on a time where people had the courage to express opinions despite the consequences. Whilst well crafted, Salute falters slightly as its early attention to detail disappears with the skimming over of the moment’s aftermath.  Unfortunately missing the opportunity to illuminate things further, it doesn’t show enough of how each men coped with their lasting fame and its impact.  The unfolding events are always fascinating however, as their stance became an enduring symbol of hope for people searching for leadership.  
This snapshot of time is an interesting document putting Peter Norman in his rightful place in history.  A principled man believing in the freedom of speech, Norman enjoyed a life-long friendship with Carlos and Smith until the end.  Ultimately this is perhaps the most heartfelt aspect of a film showing the power of his actions and the enduring bond that was created that fateful day.
Rating out of 10:  7

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