Saturday, September 6, 2014

TIFF 14 Film Review- Charlie's Country

Modern day Aboriginal Life is the central topic of Rolf de Heer's film Charlie's Country.  The film looks at life in Aboriginal communities that are not run by the indigenous peoples, life in the cities and prospects in the land outside of the government run Aboriginal communities.

The film centres on Charlie played by the masterful David Gulpilil beginning out in a three side metal home that the government believes is suitable housing making his way through the day. He obtains his government allowance, gives some to the more needy, stops by the community supermarket that is short on just about everything and engages in friendly banter with the locally posted police officers.

de Heer presents a tale co written by Gulpilil that highlights the encroaching State laws on even the most northern Aboriginal communities. Once excellent sequence is a successful hunting trip for Charlie and fellow old-timer master tracker Black Pete (Peter Djigirr) who co- produced the production.  On their return to town they are stopped by the game warden that begins to question them about licenses and permits. The last straw for Charlie is the confiscation of a hand crafted hunting spear by local police office Luke (Luke Ford) who calls it a weapon.  Charlie very perplexed as he often helps the police to track criminals into the bush without compensation.  The spear episode leads Charlie out deeper into the bush in an attempt to live in the traditional ways.

The situation in the cities is even worse. Government funds appear to go strait for alcohol. Aboriginals have to show I.D to purchase as many are banned from doing so. There are also strict rules in place for purchasing alcohol and giving it to a banned person. Darwin is the city featured in the film as Charlie falls in with the cities homeless following a brief stay at Royal Darwin Hospital Darwin is the place where the locals from the Northern Territory go for treatment and eventually end up when an illness is to severe to treat locally.  The trip to Darwin is often feared as the last plane ride out of the community never to return.

Charlie does have an extremely happy memory in is life. It came as a boy when he went all the way to Sydney to dance for the Queen at the opening of the opera house. He speaks of that event with great pride and the community leaders led by Old Lulu (Peter Minygululu) often try to entice Charlie to speak to the current youth and teach them to dance as he did.

Charlie's Country is an insightful look into the minefield of politics and reality of Aboriginal / Australian State Relations. As Charlie states to locally posted State official. I want a house as the government gave you a house on my land. Charlie's Country is definitely a film I can recommend.

*** 1/2  Out of 4.

Charlie's Country | Rolf de Heer | Australia | 2013 | 108 Minutes.

Tags: Aboriginal Community, State Laws, Banned Peoples, Darwin, Outback, Tracking.

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