Film Review – Charlie’s Country (2013)

Charlie's Country - post

Title – Charlie’s Country (2013)

Director – Rolf de Heer (The Old Man Who Read Love Stories)

Cast – David Gulpilil, Luke Ford, Peter Djigirr

Plot – Indigenous Australian Charlie (Gulpulil) struggles to adapt to life on his land with an increasing presence of white men and their law, including police man Luke (Ford). Charlie looks to connect once more with his Mother Country, a journey that leads him on a life changing path.

 “I believe you were found in the bush Charlie?….. I was born in the bush”

Review by Eddie on 24/11/2014

Australia’s official submission into this year’s Best Foreign Language category at the Academy Awards, famed director Rolf de Heer’s raw, uncompromising and impressively beautiful film is easily the most accomplished and important tale to come from our shores in quite some time and acts as a very personal journey for one of our country’s most recognisable actors, David Gulpilil.

To understand the power of Charlie’s Country and the telling nature of its tale, one must look into how the film eventuated and what it harboured for Gulpilil in particular. Despite his success as an actor that started off in Nic Roeg’s Walkabout in 1971, Gulpilil had found himself on hard times, the victim as sadly many indigenous people face in the country of alcohol abuse that saw him incarcerated in a federal penitentiary. Friends for many years after their collaborations in 2002’s The Tracker and 2006’s Ten Canoes (Australian film’s worthy of being tracked down) de Heer visited Gulpilil in jail where the seeds of Charlies Country were formed when Gulpilil expressed a great desire to once more work with his friend and director. From there a story that was close to Gulpilil’s heart began to be formed and it’s where the quiet understated power of de Heer’s work stems from.

With a mere look, or with the camera following his every move through the vast beauty of the Australian outback or the more scary surrounds of Darwin, Gulpilil commands the screen and de Heer controls this wonderfully, not at all afraid to let Gulpilil’s face tell us all we need to know. In what is undoubtedly a match between the actor and the real man, Gulpilil inhabits this man Charlie with a grace and understanding as he struggles to come to grips with his mother country slowly but surely coming under more influence from the white man. This small scale story of one man’s trials and tribulations masks a much larger overall problem Australia has at its core regarding the treatment of our indigenousness people and a failure to properly combine the old and the new without losing the connection to the land and customs that for thousands of years have been integral to the culture of these people. All these elements within Charlie’s Country play out in such a manner that never becomes overbearing, for there is subtle humour here (water buffalo anyone?) and grace from all involved that gives Charlie’s Country not only a heart but a recognisable humanity.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Charlie’s Country is a finely crafted and effective movie, for de Heer has long shown his ability to create memorably moving films and his previous collaborations with Gulpilil are some of the finest ever made in this country concerning indigenous culture. From Gulpilil’s award worthy turn (which was rewarded with a Best Actor win at this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard festival), Graham Tardif’s beautiful piano score and de Heers professional direction, this is Australian filmmaking and storytelling at its best and a moving portrait of modern day life in the harsh realities of the outback and the lives our indigenous people live in particular.

4 and a half hand crafted spears out of 5

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