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David Gulpilil as Charlie and Peter Djigirr as Black Pete | Image Source:

Charlie’s Country is an Indigenous look at the struggle caused by colonial government control over traditional territory and way of life in remote Australia. David Gulpilil, Yolngu, co-wrote and stars as the main character, Charlie, a humble man with a nimble sense of humour. The film is directed, produced and co-written by Rolf de Heer, who is known for creating low budget, high impact films that have something honest to say about the human condition. This is not the first time these two have collaborated; their previous works include The Tracker and Ten Canoes.


Luke Ford plays Charlie’s antagonist, Policeman Luke, an officer who is ignorant about the community’s traditional way of life. Policeman Luke confiscates Charlie’s hunting spear claiming, it’s a dangerous weapon, yet drives off with it in his hand, hypocritically holding the spear outside of the police car. After having his rifle and spear taken away, Charlie goes off on his own journey to reconnect with his land and traditional ways, and  in turn sets off a series of events that lead him into unchartered territory.


Along his journey, Charlie’s quiet best friend, Black Pete (Peter Djigirr), share deep moments together with Black Pete’s ‘magical’ ability to show up to support Charlie in his most pressing times.


The film explores the treatment of Aboriginals in Australia, however it tells a story shared by Indigenous people throughout the world. Colonial governments attacking Indigenous Peoples and culture to exploit and benefit from controlling the land. One of the most telling scenes is when Charlie is denied housing by a non-Indigenous caseworker. Frustrated by the historical and on-going racism Charlie exposes how non-Indigenous people benefit, “You got a job, you got a house…. on my land! Where’s my house? Where’s my job?”


Overall I really connected with this film as it runs parallel with how First Nations in Canada were and still are treated today. Colonial governments and society still have a lot to learn about how to respect Indigenous people’s traditional ways of life.


You can catch Charlie’s Country at the TIFF Lightbox, 350 King Street West from August 21-27, 2015. Showtimes are here:


Director: Rolf De Heer
Cast: David Gulpilil, Peter Djigirr, Luke Ford, Richard Birrinbirrin,
Runtime: 108 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Languages: English and Yolngu w/ subtitles



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About The Author

Erica Commanda

Born in Toronto, Erica Commanda (Algonquin/Ojibwe) grew up in the small community of Pikwakanagan. From there she moved across Canada living in Ottawa, Vancouver and now Toronto, working in the bar/hospitality industry, mastering the art of listening to stories from her regulars while slinging and spilling drinks (at them or to them). And now through a series of random decisions and events in life she is on a journey discovering and mastering her own knack for storytelling as Associate Editor for MUSKRAT Magazine.

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