Big Screen :: Charlie’s Country

July 21st 2014


…a remarkably clear eyed look at a dilemma happening in remote indigenous communities all over…

Charlie’s Country is the new film from Rolf De Heer, which saw David Gulpilil deservedly win a best actor Oscar at Cannes a few months back.

It’s a melancholy story with plenty of gentle comedy about an elder living in a remote indigenous community in Arnhem Land. Charlie is stuck between two worlds; his lungs have been ruined by cigarettes and, though he tries, he is too old and sick to live on country, hunting and fishing using the old ways. Though he tries equally hard, he can’t live like a white fella either. The law is always confiscating his spear or his gun, the health system tries to move him away from his country and there is always alcohol around.

It’s a remarkably clear eyed look at this dilemma that happens in remote indigenous communities all over.


For the people that live there; there is the pull of their country but little meaningful work, the food is bad and overpriced, and the sheer remoteness is a barrier towards health and education.

For the most part Charlie has a pretty good relationship with the police. He helps them track some criminals and jokes with them in the street. He understands the rules, but English is his second language and he grew up in the bush, far away from this society. Its no shock that he doesn’t quite fit, that he would have no idea why he would need a gun license to hunt buffalo on his land.

This is Gulpilil’s film. He is in almost every shot, and he wrote it with De Heer, partially while he was serving time in 2012. This prison time, and many other aspects of Gulpilil’s amazing life influence the film. He is a truly great actor and performer and a remarkable presence on screen.

The film is worth watching just for him alone, and I’m not surprised De Heer was compelled to build a film around him after they worked together in the Tracker and Ten Canoes.

Charlie’s Country not an angry film and you get the feeling that its not interested in politics. It’s matter of fact about the problems faced in these communities, but still light and gentle and also very funny at times. I thought it was really good. Give it a look.

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