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Freedom Stories, A Family Affair, Women He’s Undressed, and Magic Mike XXL

Costume designer Orry-Kelly is played by Darren Gilshenan in Women He’s Undressed. Photo: Supplied Joe Manganiello (left) and Channing Tatum in Magic Mike XXL.
Nanjing Night Net

FREEDOM STORIES

★★★½

PG, 100 minutes. Opens Thursday, Cinema Nova

Not only timely in its depiction of how a previous generation of refugees have productively fitted into Australian society, but also fascinating for how it draws out – or even inspires – undercurrents of unease, this deceptively complex documentary by Steve Thomas deliberately sets out to introduce people previously dehumanised by both rhetoric and forced detention. “He’s a pretty good mechanic,” says a customer of Mustafa, an Afghani who fled the Taliban as a 10-year-old and spent three years on Nauru, and the film shows everyday interaction as a means of emphasising the social contribution; the folksiness of the filmmaking has a point. Thomas has long covered this field, and in revisiting former subjects he sometimes triggers difficult memories, but it’s intriguing to hear how different generations remember the dangerous trek to safety in Australia, and now interact. Freedom, for them, is not an abstract: “Anything could happen,” remembers Shafiq, an Afghani who journeyed here by boat, “but I was really happy.” CM

A FAMILY AFFAIR

★★★

G, 88 minutes. Australian Cinema for the Moving Image, until Tuesday 28 July

“Music gives us life,” notes a matriarch in this documentary, which criss-crosses the binding of family and home to capture the past and present of acclaimed Cretan musician George Xylouris​, who has alternated between Greece and Melbourne. Angeliki Aristomenopoulou​’s film celebrates that quote, capturing a clan whose legacy stretches back to mountain shepherds, but while it doesn’t directly question the participants it subtly draws out the stresses and responsibility that comes with talent. George’s adult sons and teenage daughter with his Australian-born wife Shelagh (a wry, composed presence) carry on both his name and Cretan music, and for the youngest, Apollonia, there’s a definite pressure. “I don’t want to disappoint him,” she says of her dad, whose optimism and inclusiveness is counterpointed by his own father, Psarantonis​, an intense presence and gifted musician whose grandchildren must become his fellow players. The cultural observation is rich, but the family dynamic is a fascinating crucible. CM

WOMEN HE’S UNDRESSED

★★★★

PG, 99 minutes. Now playing

Orry-Kelly, who collected three Oscars, was openly gay, consistently outspoken and often ornery in his determination that his talent not be short-changed. It’s a big life with a wealth of alluring subplots and director Gillian Armstrong has done some inspired detective work stitching it together in this documentary biopic. SH

MAGIC MIKE XXL

★★★½

MA, 115 minutes. Now playing

Sequels are not usually subtle, but the second time around rarely comes with as much dedication to pleasing the audience as the follow-up to the 2012 tale of Channing Tatum’s male stripper does. It’s sometimes inspired and occasionally daft, and it fixes a few Hollywood wrongs while inspiring abdominal muscle envy among male viewers. CM

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