I am not Australian - but I am living in Australia at the moment and feel as if I need to have a solid grasp of the history of this vast continent and what it is all about. So I went to see Charlie's Country because I heard that it had been critically acclaimed at Cannes but also because it was based on the story of an Aboriginal man.
The film is centred around one character, Charlie and his life in an Aboriginal community up north, then in the bush, in jail, and finally back in his community. Does it have a happy ending? I would say it was a welcome one and one with some hope and that is a good thing because the majority of the film is not upbeat. It is however I suspect very true to life for some Aboriginal people and it portrays the prejudice, the cultural differences, the despair and the traumas experienced on a daily basis. There is not a lot of action in this film, but if you live in Australia, I urge you to go and see this. It really is an eye opener and one which will stay with you for a long time.
There is a lot of close up shots of Charlie's wizened face. His emaciated body, (a doctor tells him in an off hand manner that he should eat better), his big and rough hands, the dirty clothes he wears, his few possessions, almost none at all. We meet some of Charlie's friends, others in the community but also people in authority. He tries to live within the rules but actually finds himself frustrated each time. There are moments of sheer hilarity and deep humiliation, moments of despair and dejection but also evidence of how important family and community is to them.
Charlie is ably portrayed by David Gulpilil who helped write this together with the Director Rolf de Heer. It is more art house than mainstream but then that is more my thing and for those who want to see artful and meaningful films this is one to see.