Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Rolf de Heer (director and co-writer) and David Gulpilil (co-writer), Charlie’s Country (2013)

Directed by Rolf de Heer, and co-written by de Heer with the star of the film David Gulpilil, Charlie’s Country (2013) is a celebration of the acting talent and screen persona of David Gulpilil who is one of Australia’s most   accomplished Aboriginal actors.  The film by de Heer was inspired by the highs and lows of Gulpilil’s extraordinary life and by his (and de Heer’s) political beliefs on Aboriginal identity and self-determination, and on the appropriate relations between the white and black populations.  The film argues that white people have no right to be telling Aborigines what to do and how to live on their own ancestral tribal land. 

The film argues that the Aborigines were unfairly displaced from their ancestral tribal lands by white colonial settlement and then marginalised and oppressed by Australian laws and regulations in a manner that compromised their sense of identity and belonging.  This left the Aboriginal people feeling caught between two worlds and succeeding in neither of them: the bureaucratised, regulated and commercialised world of white civilisation with its unhealthy, sugary, processed supermarket food and the temptations of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs; and the world of the tribal Aborigines who value living on their ancestral lands and close to nature as traditional hunter-gatherers and who also value the passing of their tribal traditions on to their young. 

The film argues that this process of Aboriginal alienation intensified after 2007 during the period of the Federal Government’s ‘intervention’ into the jurisdiction of the Northern Territory to address the chronic problems of alcoholism, illicit drug abuse, and violence within Aboriginal communities. The film presents the resulting administration of the Aborigines’ lives as intrusive and as at the expense of Aboriginal self-determination.  And it depicts the resulting heavy police presence as oppressive, culturally insensitive, and sometimes violent with the racist attitudes of the police lurking under the surface of polite discourse until the police are provoked to anger and then it is fully revealed.   

The film is in the tradition of post-colonial literature and cinema since it seeks to give expression to what are theoretically considered to be marginalised voices, those of the Aboriginal Australians.  The film challenges what is assumed to be the dominant (white) discourse by presenting an Aboriginal perspective on white settlement and civilisation.  Although de Heer is an Australian of (white) Dutch ancestry, he relied on the Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil to give his film more post-colonial authenticity by incorporating Gulpilil’s own dialogue and attitudes into the story as much as possible.  This included making the film bilingual.  Several Aboriginal characters speak in their own Aboriginal language as well as in English.  Indeed, sometimes the speaking of this Aboriginal language is treated as an act of defiance in the face of oppression by (white) Australian authorities.

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2019 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Charlie’s Country meaning, Charlie’s Country themes, Charlie’s Country analysis, Charlie’s Country notes