I´ve never been to Australia but I have a great interest in it. Specially about the Aboriginals in there. Specially after watching the films by Rolf de Heer I´ll be talking about in the lines below.
Last year I was despretenciously looking for something to watch when I read some commentaries about this film in a forum online. It´s called Charlie´s Country and its plot said something like:
“Displeased with the intervention of whitefella laws, Charlie takes off to live the old way and sets off a chain reaction of enlightening difficulties.
So, Charlie is a 50 years old Aborigene guy living in a shack provided by the government within a community in Northern Australia. At the beginning things go fine and Aborigines and the few white people living in there (mostly police officers, social workers and doctors) are considered fellows until somebody do something. Charlie gets tired of his situation, of his way of life, his conditions, his time, his relation with this unnatural environment.
It´s about an inner rebellion of someone who´s trying to find the place where he belongs in a country he knows it´s his but in which he can no longer be free. He must obey the laws of whitefellas now. No spears. No ganja. No hunting. No bush.
The film can be very sentimental at some scenes, causing a strong feeling of empathy, like this dialogue between Charlie and a social worker in charge of some Aboriginal issues like life conditions. This dialogue follows below:
“- So, you´ve got a house? – Yes, Charlie, of course, I´ve got a house. – And you´ve got a wife? – No, I haven´t. – See, I don´t have a wife and I don´t have a house. You have a house. In my own land. In my country. And I´ve got nothing.”
Or when he´s in the hospital and when he says his family name the doctor excuses himself and explains that “he´s bad with foreigner names”.
The weight of those scenes show clearly how people deal with this theme. De Heer shows signs of a subtle opression and omission everywhere in Charlie´s search of identity. Well, when we talk about this the truth is, generally speaking, we´re not able to look at this subject empathically. We´re used to see the marginalized natives everywhere, in all the continents, in a totally new world than the one their ancestors lived in. I am myself from a country with quite big Aboriginal diversity and unfortunatelly we don´t hear people talking about those people so often.
Another thing that Rolf de Heer did well was the choice of the languages spoken in this film. English and Yalnu Matha, one of Aboriginal languages, are totally well placed and linked to characterisation, once their native language puts a lot of feeling in their speechs, specially because it influences in the construction of their phrases and in their behaviours (specially when they laugh hard, fantastic!). Moreover, in several parts Charlie and his friends make jokes or talk about white men in Yalnu Matha so they can´t be understood.
Charlie’s Country was selected to compete in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival where David Gulpilil won the award for Best Actor. It was also screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and awarded the Best Fiction Prize and the Youth Jury Prize at the 2015 International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) in Geneva.
check out the official trailer
After Charlie´s Country I watched another de Heer´s film called 10 Canoes, also about Aborigines cause, also great.
This film unique tells a story about an Aborigine group who lived many many years ago, before James Cook arrives in this land. All the events are told by a narrator, interpreted by David Gulpilil. It is a love story mixing a fantastic humour, Australian aboriginal mithology, superstitions and mistery. It´s great to get to know more about some Aborigine manners, like the dance of death and the role of men and women in their societies. It´s the first ever movie entirely filmed in Australian Aboriginal languages.
“A story within a story. In Australia’s Northern Territory, a man tells us one of the stories of his people and his land. It’s a story of an older man, Minygululu, who has three wives and realizes that his younger brother Dayindi may try to steal away the youngest wife. So, over a few days and several trips to hunt and gather, Minygululu tells Dayindi a story set in the time of their ancestors when a stranger came to the village and disrupted the lives of a serious man named Ridjimiraril, his three wives, and his younger brother Yeeralparil who had no wife and liked to visit his youngest sister-in-law. Through stories, can values be taught and balance achieved?”
The title “Ten Canoes” was inspired by a photograph shown to Director Rolf de Heer by Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil. The picture was of group of ten native men in their bark canoes on the Arafura swamp. The photo was taken by anthropologist Dr Donald Thomson who worked in central and north-eastern Arnhem Land seventy years earlier during the mid-1930s.
Ten Canoes also won the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, it won 6 awars in 2006 AFI Awards and also the 2006 Gent Film Festival, in Belgium.
Interview with David Gulpilil, one of the greatest Australian actors
Click here if you want to get to know more about Australian Aborigenes.