|Charlie's Country - David Gulpilil|
A film I'd been eager to see for some time was Charlie's Country - the third in a series of films made by Rolf de Heer with the great indigenous Australian actor David Gulpilil. The first two, The Tracker and Ten Canoes, were quite extraordinary, breaking new ground in terms of indigenous film-making, with a full and genuine engagement between the film-maker and the indigenous culture, following the protocols and letting the culture speak in its own terms and its own rhythms. In Charlie's Country, the process is brought powerfully into the present day, with Gulpilil providing not only a mesmerising central performance, but also the truthful underpinning of the story, much of which is painfully close to autobiographical. In the first Origins Festival, back in 2009, we screened a British-made film about Aboriginal Australians, called This is Our Country Too. Gulpilil appeared in the film, not as an actor but as a subject of documentary - clearly adrift from stability, poverty-stricken, awash with alcohol. I have to confess that I didn't believe it - I did not want to believe it. Seeing Charlie's Country, and hearing some of Rolf de Heer's very moving talk after the screening, confirms what was in Ishmahil Blagrove, Jr's film: but it also moves beyond it, as Charlie's Country gives this great actor a way back to himself, understanding himself and his cultural context through the process of performance, making sense of the conflicts in which he lives through the media of cultural expression. It is a fantastic achievement, fully worthy of his Best Actor award at Cannes.
At the end of the film, there is a sense of the way in which culture can offer the route to self-reclamation for indigenous communities, as the young of Charlie's tribe learn the traditional dances and songs. I have long believed this to be the salvation of the dispossessed - an idea first clearly articulated for me by Yves Sioui Durand in that same landmark first festival, when he explained his ideas around the Theatre of Healing - a process that reconnects young indigenous people to their ancestors and their inherited cultural practice. I also believe that these healing processes underway in indigenous communities are an example to the rest of the world - spaces where identity and community are reclaimed, and a sense of spiritual worth restored.
There's a terrific blog by my friend Ian Henderson, which explores in more detail the "art activism" of indigenous Australia as seen in this film.
|The Dead Lands|
Switch the viewpoint. Start to see things from the point of view of somebody you thought was the enemy. Open up that conversation.