TV Blackbox, Kevin Perry, 21 April 2023
Folau is the story of one of Australia’s most gifted and controversial athletes – Israel Folau – and how a social media post landed him at the heart of our culture wars, derailing careers in the process.
Screening over two consecutive Thursday nights this May, this much-anticipated documentary will take audiences inside the clash of culture, faith and football.
For the first time Israel Folau’s story is examined in all its multilayered complexity, featuring crucial Pasifika voices and exploring the nexus between freedom of religion and speech, protection from discrimination for the LGBTQIA+ community, and how far the workplace can reasonably go to balance the two.
Part 1, Thursday May 18 at 8pm.
Traces Israel Folau’s upbringing in the devout Christian traditions of the Pasifika community, whose other ‘religion’ is rugby. It follows his meteoric and record setting rise through three football codes, culminating in 73 appearances for the Wallabies.
While initially grappling with the pitfalls of fame and fortune, when his father Eni experiences a major health scare, Folau re-evaluates his choices, setting him on a path that will alter the course of his career and life forever.
Part 2: Thursday May 25 at 8pm
Folau posts an internet meme that rocks the nation and sees him sacked by Rugby Australia. With insider accounts, this episode unpicks what happens in the hours, days and weeks that follow and shows the impact it had on the Pasifika community – straight and queer.
As he fights his former employer in the courts of justice and public opinion, he finds an ally in the Australian Christian Lobby, becoming a voice in Australia’s political cycle, galvanising forces debating the impact of a proposed religious discrimination bill.
2 x 60 mins. An In Films Production. Principal production investment from Screen Australia and developed with support from Screen NSW. ABC Commissioning Editor: Jo Chichester. ABC Head, Screen Sport & Events: Kath Earle. Director: Nel Minchin. Producer: Ivan O’Mahoney.