Story

In the docudrama The First Fagin, Australian filmmakers Helen Gaynor and Alan Rosenthal combine interviews and re-enactments to tell the story of one of England’s most infamous criminals, Isaac ‘Ikey’ Solomon (Ryk Goddard). Ikey was a thief whose life was defined by crime, adventure and love. He was also supposedly the inspiration for Charles Dickens’ famous character of Fagin in Oliver Twist. Narrated by Miriam Margolyes, this movie offers unique insight into the personal life of a legendary figure.

Themes

Crime and punishment; the abuse of power; social stratification

Violence

This movie has some limited violence. For example:

  • The re-enactments and interviews are separated by snapshots of old images – for example, paintings and sketches – that show historical moments such as social revolution, public hangings and graphic executions. These images are shown with background noises of gunshots, sword fights and other violent sounds. This happens as historians discuss the way that rural England was breaking down at the time.
  • The scenes where Ikey is moved to Port Arthur have images and sketches of people being lashed with whips.
  • Ann slaps and hits her husband Ikey, struggling against him physically as she cries, ‘They took away my children’. Ikey tries to hold her back.
  • Ms Newman slaps Ann after calling her a thief, and has Ann sent to the women’s prison just for arguing with her.
  • At his daughter’s wedding, Ikey throws a drink in the face of Ann’s new lover. The two men have a fight. The fight is quickly broken up.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

Children under five years are likely to be scared by the violent scenes mentioned above. 

From 5-8

This movie has some scenes and ideas that could disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • When women are charged and moved to Van Diemen’s Land, children are separated from their mothers, both as punishment and because the women are there to work.
  • The authorities let Ann’s youngest child live with her while she is a convict, but they put her three older children in an orphanage. 

From 8-13

In addition to the violent and upsetting scenes and ideas mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example, during a court proceeding, a judge speaks to a young girl harshly and unkindly. He says, ‘I have no compassion for you. You shall be taken from your place of confinement and you shall hang by the neck until you are dead’. 

Over 13

Nothing more of concern

Sexual references

This movie has a few sexual references. For example:

  • When Ikey is talking about Charles Dickens, he mentions with disgust that Dickens’s wife ran a brothel and that he had a dozen mistresses.
  • One of the interviewees states that the upper class led ‘very risqué lives’, with ‘lots of scandal and sexual immorality’.
  • Ikey hears from fellow townspeople that Ann has been having an affair with another man who regularly visits her house. When she arrives, Ikey yells, ‘Whore! You whore!’ Ann is shocked and distressed.
  • There are town rumours of Ikey’s daughter, Nancy, being involved in a sexual scandal. The details are never described. 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

This movie shows some use of substances. For example:

  • Men drink in a pub.
  • When talking about life in prison, Ikey says, ‘All you could do was drink and gamble’.
  • To escape, Ikey organises for his gaolers’ drinks to be spiked with drugs. They fall unconscious, and Ikey has a chance to run.
  • Ikey immediately begins drinking again after hearing that Ann might have been unfaithful. 

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie shows some sexual activity when Ikey and Ann kiss at different times throughout the movie. 

Product placement

None of concern 

Coarse language

This movie has some coarse language. For example:

  • Ikey describes Charles Dickens’ novel as ‘filth and lies’.
  • Ikey repeatedly calls Anne a ‘whore’ in front of their children. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

The First Fagin is a documentary drama about the life of Isaac ‘Ikey’ Solomon, a 19th-century criminal. The movie follows him as he travels from London to Gotham and eventually to the penal colony at Van Diemen’s Land. The movie reveals the consequences of Ikey’s criminal actions, the police actions and the general public’s response to him.

If you have younger children, you should note that the movie contains violence – including images of executions – some coarse language and themes that make it more suited to older teenagers and adults.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:

  • acting according to the law and not doing criminal things, no matter how minor
  • standing by your family and doing your best to help them in every situation
  • fighting for what you believe is just and right
  • behaving with integrity and being honest with other people.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as:

  • the consequences of criminal activity, which the movie goes into quite deeply. For example, Ikey’s life is affected by several choices he makes, long after he has served his prison sentence and started leading a life without crime
  • the importance of being faithful to your partner, and the way that relationships can break down over many years.