26 Feb

Jack Charles (played by Jack Charles) is an indigenous actor who has worked “on and off” for decades. His work is celebrated – he is credited with founding the first Aboriginal theatre company, Nindethana (‘place for a corroboree’) in 1971 – and has collaborated over the years with several Australian actors and filmmakers. He has also been a heroin addict for over thirty years and most often makes his home wherever he can doss down around the Melbourne streets. We meet Jack as he makes his way back to his current lodgings, mixes himself a fix, injects himself as we watch, and explains … “I thought of clearing all this stuff away so you wouldn’t see my drugs, but then it wouldn’t have been truthful – you wouldn’t have seen who I really am.” This is the tenor of the entire piece. Jack is obviously a born performer – he is candid about his upbringing, the lack of affection in his early years as a “stolen child” growing up the sole indigenous resident of an urban boys home. He is also refreshingly direct about his difficulty with relationships and his acceptance of his “lot” today.

This is a documentary. The director, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, followed Charles for seven years, through thick and thin, to make this fascinating piece. As we go with him, Jack has his ups and downs – he is quite explicit about his criminal activities, does stretches in gaol, achieves his first physical home via government housing and goes clean, well as clean as methadone anyway. Jack has several interractions with “the Jacks” and is alarmingly open about they way he steals from people, even those he knows. He is articulate and there is something compelling and endearing about him, his sense of humour is real and he is obviously well regarded by those around him. The feature includes archival material of Jack as the actor and newspaper headlines which document his various highs and lows. I found it curiously compelling, I didn’t feel sympathetic towards Jack, but I was fascinated with this piece.

Made in 2009. Directed by Amiel Courtin-Wilson

Note: Jack Charles worked predominantly in theatre, but his films include Blackfellas (1993) and Fred Schepisi’s The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978)

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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Movies


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