Written by: Alexandra Spring, a Sydney-based journalist who writes about the arts, culture and lifestyle
Friday 6 February 2015
Charlie’s Country has an important message for all young people about the destruction that drugs and alcohol can cause, according to its leading man David Gulpilil. “It’s no good for our body or our universe,” said the award-winning actor, who is the subject of the opening evening of Blak Night Screen, a free two-day festival in Melbourne celebrating Indigenous film-making.
Speaking on the Aactas red carpet in Sydney, Gulpilil credited his career longevity and success with having quit all stimulants. He even skipped the whirlwind of parties at the 2014 Cannes film festival, despite picking up best actor in the Un Certain Regard section for his role in Charlie’s Country. “I said: I’ve done that – biscuits, caviar and champagne. I [even] quit the cigarettes.”
Gulpilil, who was also named best actor at the Aactas, came to prominence in the 1971 movie Walkabout, shot when he was just 15. The breakout film was screened at Buckingham Palace and Gulpilil still remembers walking the red carpet with the Queen. He went on to star in Australian classics including Storm Boy, Mad Dog Morgan, Rabbit Proof Fence and Crocodile Dundee.
His collaboration with the film-maker Rolf de Heer was seen as a career rejuvenation after Gulpilil’s own battles with addiction. He starred in De Heer’s The Tracker and Ten Canoes before Charlie’s Country and the actor confirmed the pair intend to work together again soon.
He says he is “very proud” of his latest film, particularly the recognition it has received in Australia. The film tells of one man’s struggle to reconcile the traditional Indigenous way of life with contemporary Australian society, specifically the restrictions imposed by the Northern Territory’s Intervention.
Gulpilil also sees the film as a reminder of the importance of a close relationship with nature, adding: “I get a message from there.”
“I’m a ballerina, a dancer, I’m an artist, I’m a writer and I studied the earth, same as David Attenborough.” he said. “I’ve done so many things, of course, but now I’m performing and acting so throughout the world they can see how many things I make … what I’m doing is introducing the country of Australia [to the world].”
There will be a free screening of Charlie’s Country as part of Blak Nite on Friday . The event includes a discussion between the broadcaster Aaron Pedersen and the Indigenous filmmaker Darlene Johnson, who directed Gulpilil in One Red Blood.
The festival will also feature a screening of The Turning, and episodes of Gods of Wheat Street and Redfern Now in celebration of Blak Wave cinema.
• Blak Nite Screen is at the Treasury gardens, Melbourne on 6 and 7 of February