Charlie's Country

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Charlie's Country
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRolf de Heer
Written byRolf de Heer
David Gulpilil
Produced byRolf de Heer
Peter Djigirr
Nils Erik Nielsen
StarringDavid Gulpilil
Luke Ford
CinematographyIan Jones
Edited byTania Nehme
Music byGraham Tardif
Release dates
  • 12 October 2013 (2013-10-12) (Adelaide)
  • 22 May 2014 (2014-05-22) (Cannes)
Running time
108 minutes
LanguagesYolngu Matha

Charlie's Country is a 2013 Australian drama film directed by Rolf de Heer. It was selected to compete in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival[1] where David Gulpilil won the award for Best Actor.[2] It was also screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival[3] and awarded the Best Fiction Prize and the Youth Jury Prize at the 2015 International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) in Geneva.[4]

The film was selected as the Australian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, but was not nominated.[5]


Charlie, an Aboriginal man who lives in Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory of Australia, paints tree barks and fishes barramundi fish, all the while feeling out of place in an Australia which is no longer his. He laments the loss of his culture in modern Australia. After his spear is confiscated by the police, who think it is a weapon, he decides to leave his urban Aboriginal community and go back to the bush, his "Mother Country". He falls ill and is rushed to the hospital in Darwin. He discharges himself, then befriends an Aboriginal woman and buys alcohol illegally for other Aboriginal people who are banned from buying alcohol, and he gets arrested. As a result, he is sent to prison.[6]

When he gets out, he agrees to pass on traditional dances from his generation to young Aboriginal boys, fearing the loss of their cultural identity.


Critical reception[edit]

Charlie's Country holds an approval rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes[7] and 75% on Metacritic.[8] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[9]

Jane Howard of The Guardian wrote a positive review of the film.[6] She argued that the "camera is often motionless and there is a sense of still photography to the work."[6] She added that Gulpilil's flawless acting carried the movie.[6] In the Sydney Morning Herald, Paul Byrnes also praised his "extraordinary grace and physical ease" as an actor.[10] He added, "The level of trust between actor and director here is part of the reason this work will live on."[10] Similarly, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney praised the collaboration between de Heer and Gulpilil, arguing, "It's a testament to what de Heer and Gulpilil have achieved here -- with simplicity and infinite nuance -- that through all the highs and devastating lows we witness in this brief chapter of Charlie's life, the character's identity remains etched into every aspect of the performance."[11]

In Variety, Eddie Cockrell praised the cinematography, concluding, "The tech package is seamless. Ian Jones’ widescreen photography immerses the viewer in the Australian outback, while Graham Tardif’s plaintive score emphasizes both the dignity and the anguish of Charlie’s all-too-common plight."[12] In The Australian, Evan Williams called it an "unforgettable film, beautifully made, at times unbearably sad, but tinged with an unquenchable optimism and humanity."[13] He added that some scenes were likely to provoke racism in some viewers, thus helping them question their own ingrained prejudices.[13]

However, writing for the ABC's Radio National, Jason Di Rosso wrote a negative review. He called it "another disappointment in that category of ambitious Australian filmmaking that’s about trying to make art, as well as entertain". He thought that the film lacked ambiguity, adding that there are "thinly drawn racist characters and an inability to render different tones in the one visual idea". He disagreed with other reviewers about de Heer and Gulpilil's close relationship: for Di Rosso, "de Heer hasn’t shown enough faith in his central performer and the collection of beautiful and ugly landscapes he’s drawn together".[14]


Award Category Subject Result
AACTA Awards
Best Film Nils Erik Nielsen Nominated
Peter Djigirr Nominated
Rolf de Heer Nominated
Best Direction Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Nominated
David Gulpilil Nominated
Best Actor Won
Best Sound James Currie Nominated
Tom Heuzenroeder Nominated
Adelaide Film Festival Foxtel Movies Audience Award for Best Feature Rolf de Heer Won
AFCA Awards Best Film Nils Erik Nielsen Nominated
Peter Djigirr Nominated
Rolf de Heer Nominated
Best Director Nominated
Best Screenplay Won
David Gulpilil Won
Best Actor Won
Best Cinematography Ian Jones Won
Asia Pacific Screen Awards Achievement in Directing Rolf de Heer Nominated
Best Actor David Gulpilil Nominated
Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard – Best Actor Won
Un Certain Regard Award Rolf de Heer Nominated
FCCA Awards Best Film Nils Erik Nielsen Won
Peter Djigirr Won
Rolf de Heer Won
Best Director Won
Best Screenplay Nominated
David Gulpilil Nominated
Best Actor Nominated
Best Cinematography Ian Jones Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2014 Official Selection". Cannes. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  2. ^ "Un Certain Regard 2014 Awards". Festival de Cannes 2014. Archived from the original on 24 May 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  3. ^ "TIFF Adds 'Clouds of Sils Maria' and 'Two Days, One Night,' Reveals 5 More Lineups". Indiewire. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  4. ^ "Festival : Le FIFDH s'est achevé sur une affluence record - Culture -". Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  5. ^ "Oscars: Australia Selects 'Charlie's Country' for Foreign-Language Category". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d Jane Howard, Charlie's Country review — slow indictment of a colonialist relationship, The Guardian, 15 October 2013
  7. ^ "Charlie's Country (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  8. ^ "Charlie's Country". Metacritic. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  9. ^ Tom, Brueggemann (7 June 2015). "Arthouse Audit: 'Love & Mercy' Opens Well, 'Testament of Youth' Modest". IndieWire. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  10. ^ a b Paul Byrnes, Charlie's Country review: Rolf de Heer and David Gulpilil produce a work for the ages, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 July 2014
  11. ^ David Rooney, 'Charlie's Country': Cannes Review, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 May 2014
  12. ^ Eddie Cockrell, Cannes Film Review: ‘Charlie’s Country’, Variety, 22 May 2014
  13. ^ a b Evan Williams, Star turn from David Gulpilil in Charlie’s Country, The Australian, 19 July 2014
  14. ^ Jason Di Rosso, Charlie’s Country and the problem with Australian art films, ABC, 17 July 2014

External links[edit]