It begins with Gulpilil in Darwin jail and ends at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival when Gulpilil, out bush at the time, won the Best Actor award in the festival’s Un Certain Regard section for his portrayal of Charlie, an Aboriginal elder during the NT intervention forced to comply with white fella intrusions.
De Heer’s films are the quiet achievers of the Australian film industry, in their own subtle way telling us something that de Heer wants us to understand better than we did when we entered the cinema.
Early in his acting career, Gulpilil encountered substance abuse. The monetary rewards from acting made him a target for sponging Aborigines wherever he went. In Darwin jail, de Heer asked him what he wanted to do after he was released. “I want to make more films.”
The result is “Charlie’s Country”. Gulpilil told de Heer things about his life that de Heer wove into a draft screenplay, a work to satisfy the most jaded palate, funny, poignant, angry, an anti-paean to the Aboriginal condition in modern Australia, telling it like it must have been, without self-pity or overt pleas for a silver bullet to make things better, its bottom line saying: “You white fellas don’t understand”. The sad truth is that few of us do and then only partially.
While “Charlie’s Country” will help improve your understanding, its entertainment values also deliver very agreeable cinematic satisfactions.
At Palace Electric and Capitol 6