David Gulpilil won Best Actor award at this year's Canne Film Festival for Charlies Country. Dutch-Australian filmmaker Rolf de Heer says the film helped his friend give up heavy drinking and changed the course of his life.
".......he began to get himself into deeper and deeper strife with alcohol and ended up in jail for assaulting his wife while they were both drunk. I thought I better go and visit him and find out what could be done, if anything" de Heer said. What Gulpilil wanted, was to make another film, so together they wrote Charlie's Country.
de Heer and Gulpilil on set
Gulpilil plays blackfella Charlie who is getting older, and he's not happy. The government's intervention is making life more difficult for his remote community, what with the proper policing of white fella laws that don't generally make sense. Charlie's kin seem to be more interested in going along with things than doing something about it so Charlie takes off into the bush to live the old way. But he sets off a chain of events in his life that has him return to his community chastened, and somewhat the wiser.
De Heer said "We travelled down the river, it's a beautiful place the swamp, and at a certain point David started yelling that the boats had to pull in here. He jumps off the boat, runs up towards this copse of trees and said "here, here is the tree, this is where I was born under this tree, this is where my mother was" and then he ushers me over to a rock and says "that rock is where my father was sitting and they carried me from where my mother was and gave me to my father."
"He hasn't had a drink in three years, this project may have been the catalyst, I hope so, but it may not" de Heer said. "But it doesn't matter because he's done it, no one else has done it for him."