Charlie’s Country

Charlie’s Country: A Film Review


The movie, Charlie’s Country appealed to me in the thought that it covered multiple aspects of the native life in Australia and how Charlie coped with two cultures and addictive habits. I additionally found the character Charlie very moving and out of the ordinary. The fact that he was able to portray the character like it was the type of life he lived was intriguing. Being a non Australian, my curiosity was piqued by the life presented, a totally different realm from what I am used to in my country. I further felt the need to understand this culture and the interaction with modern Australia. This film provided the best possible way for me to understand real Australian custom and way of life of the culturally rich natives through film.

Connection to the Film

I particularly connected with the cultural conflicts depicted in the movie, the political presentation and the second chance that the director managed to put across for Charlie. I was additionally moved by the part where the continuity of culture is displayed through Charlie teaching dance to young kids. The current global arena is intently focused on sustainability which does not exempt culture (Flint, 2012). The fact that the film projected this was certainly impressive. Despite the struggles illustrated in the film there is a remarkable attempt to place humour in the film which l appreciated. The societal struggle portrayed in the film where Charlie faces unfairness with the system, illnesses, addiction and jail term was illuminating on the kind of life an underprivileged native goes through.

Themes in the Film and their Relevance to Australian Cinema

There are several themes that strongly came out in Charlie’s Country given the native nature of the film itself.


From the movie Charlie’s Country, the main character struggles to cope with two cultures; that of the bush which he is used to and the modern culture he is introduced into. The cinematic combination with the indigenous nature of the character is a positive result of how far the Australian film makers have sought to understand the native people and present them appropriately through film. Culture in its self is a phenomenon that individuals, communities and nations juggle with daily and such the acceptance of two or more cultures creates a conflict (Altman, 2013). In modern Australia today and wider still in the globe individuals are expected to fit in with the rapid changes taking place in society. It certainly appears easier for individuals and families that have been living in a progressive society. The native people however are used to their lifestyle and may be reluctant to accept change, as depicted by most films. Australia has long sought to promote multiculturalism by developing a policy in which all diverse cultures are inclusive and recognized by the country’s system (Harris, 2014). One major portrayal has been through media, especially the film industry but one still begs the question whether these cultural factions have been justly portrayed. Despite the conflicting cultural characteristics displayed by Australian films, I felt that Heer did justice in giving Charlie’s story and his strife two cope with differing cultures.

Indigenous Life in Australia

As depicted from the film, there is a societal struggle to adapt that the indigenous people in Australia undergo when in the city. Charlie goes through alcoholism and depression while in the city as he fails to fit. He further gets ill from the smoking and eating of city food and a chest complication from the bush that has him hospitalized. From my view, the indigenous people in Australia have been shown in a light to be a social problem. I have yet to see films where learned natives with white collar jobs role play in their element as individuals who have progressed. Given this depiction, it might imply that the industry intends for the natives to be viewed in this very manner. Despite the reality and truth in Charlie’s Country the natives have a right to decide to appear in the manner they choose. The preservation of culture is certainly an important consideration but does not amount to having the people treated in such a way that they seem not to be able to think for themselves. It may be argued that what is shown in the film is representative of what most natives live like and go through (Elder, 2016). I however feel that the Australian film industry is not bound by representation; they simply have to make a good film.


The landscape in Charlie’s Country serves well to create a beauty that is alien which further contributes to the sentimental and psychological aspects in the film. The backdrop is combined with the wildness of the bush and richness of the earth then together with Charlie serves to expertly show the unique face of the native people. This native landscape portrayed by Australian film largely explains the identity of the country and the changes that have been witnessed. The natural environment featured in most Australian films serve impressively as a backdrop to the action going on and could be referred to as its own character. The landscape further shows a symbolic representation especially in native films of the lifestyle, the change and the identity present. One important factor that stands out among Australian film makers in the use of original backgrounds is the financial aspect where they manage to save on money by utilizing the features of the environment (Rayner & Harper, 2014). Despite the presence of an original landscape to make a film successful and unique, the film industry cannot ignore the changes taking place in the country. The populace is bound to interfere with the wildness and other developments. Not only is the natural landscape subject to change but also the cultural landscape which the film makers have to embrace in order to anticipate the future in Australian film.

Representation of Individuals; Men, Women and Children

I have watched several Australian films and I surmise that the film makers do a fair job of representing society in all aspects especially that of cultural diversity. In Charlie’s Country, the film is dominated by one man; Charlie. His struggles mirror the typical life that indigenous men go through. The film additionally shows white men, through their interaction with natives, struggle with a system that they do not fully comprehend and one that has no feelings for Charlie’s community. The native community primarily depend on government handouts which barely sustains them. Youth in the film are estranged from their culture and seek to grow further apart by ignoring it. The unfairness of it all in the film is what makes Charlie seek back into the bushes to live his native life. It is his small attempt at political resistance to live as a native instead of what the system requires of them. Children are depicted as a continuation of the generation and a provision of sustainability through the preservation of culture (Kooyman, 2014). The film portrays this where Charlie teaches young kids to dance. The societal struggle is evident in the film of all the parties in the native community. Their dependence is revealed, the illnesses and succumbing to addiction that would be related to the loss of freedom to the system. The struggle and defeat from the film is shown right from the old men to the youth; one that Charlie strives to defeat through encouraging his fellows not to drink and instilling the culture of dance to the young ones.


The indigenous characters in the film use their native language thus making the film wealthier in terms of the culture portrayed. The translation was made along with subtitles in the film. It has been however argued that translation of the native language does not justify its full meaning and may slowly lead to the loss of language due to dilution. Aside from the narrative of the film, I also observed the body languages particularly that of Charlie. The film kept zeroing on him and his profile and stance spoke volumes without the need of words. From Charlie’s face I could deduce dejection, depression, hope and expectation in different scenes of the film. On the basis of language the film achieved more in its portrayal of sentiments than in the narrative which was quite sparse.

Australian’s way of Representing itself, its Characters, its Locations and its Stories on Screen 

Based on Charlie’s Country, Australian films pride themselves in the identification with their culture and the projection of their landscapes that provide more essence into the films produced. The whole process of production, distribution and exhibition provides for a delineation of their way of life presented through film. Previous arguments have arisen on whether Australian films are more culture based or entertainment based. These two categories have illustrated the way the Australian film industry thinks about itself and its projection of the Australian society. The praises that have emerged from the depiction of Australian society through their film seems to be impressive showing the positive relationship between the two and the emergence of stories from the nation itself.

As compared to previous decades, Australian film has embraced native individuals as actors who now appear on cinema. The move was further empowered by the incessant political support for a multicultural policy. Studies into Australian Cinema show historical elements of the country, the different genres in film and the development of the industry. The encounter of Australia with film has clearly shown the hassle it has undergone to gain a definition for itself in the globe. The identity sought by Australian films has a white society aspect to it with the illustration of a fair and just Australian. The suppression of the native and non white society has however demanded recognition based on this representation. Due to the multicultural policy, the films illustrate a diverse society which to a large extent includes the natives, the homosexuals and those living with disability.

The audience in Australia has been observed to seek a reflection of themselves in their film. As such, the industry has not attracted enough international attention as viewers would love to see the attractive aspects of the country such as the rare wildlife and bush life (Rayner & Harper, 2014). The absorption of American culture in Australian film cannot be ignored. The rapid change in the societal view of masculinity, devaluation of strict moral codes and a more open society have been depicted in film. The previous traditions of having men get away with misbehavior have been shown to have less tolerance. Women and females have more freedom as shown in cinema and there are more liberal practices in the country. This however begs the question of the real Australian identity. The Australian government has invested in the film industry encouraging the appreciation of its national identity. The move brought about films showing the unique landscapes of Australia which features in many Australian films. Furthermore there has been the exposure of the native and indigenous people, giving a rich aspect to the culture of the smaller Australian communities and their coping with the current changes in the country. The fact that the industry has managed to show both aspects of native people in their environment and those making it in the modern society is a sure sign of positive growth in this industry.


An overview of Australian films evidently shows the existence of certain primary themes that are responsible for shaping the identity of the country. The strife to keep a positive image is seen although in some films is has been poorly presented. The challenge still remains for the cinematic approach to fully appreciate and present the bare origins and truth with creative imagination.


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