Charlie's Country

Charlie's Country Study Guide

Charlie's Country (2013) is a drama film about a Yolngu man who lives in an Indigenous "outstation" community on Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia. Although Charlie is supposedly free to live a traditional way of life among fellow Aboriginal people, white officers police the remote community. The officers' condescension and overt racism lead Charlie to feel depressed, resentful, and alienated.

Charlie sleeps in a small open-air shelter. He is friendly with other people in the community but spends much of his time sitting alone on the ground before a smoldering fire. After the outstation police confiscate his gun, Charlie fashions a spear to hunt for food. The police take the spear as well, prompting Charlie to retaliate by stealing a police car and preparing to live a more traditional lifestyle in the bush. Charlie gradually starves, finding insufficient food in the wild to keep him alive. Charlie thinks often about how as a boy he danced for the Queen of England at the opening of the Sydney Opera House. After being airlifted to a hospital in the city of Darwin, Charlie discharges himself and begins living with a group of unhoused urban Indigenous people. They are banned from consuming alcohol, but Charlie provides beer for them, breaking the law himself. Eventually, the police assault and arrest Charlie. He spends several months in prison before returning to his community. Out of fear that his culture will be forgotten, Charlie agrees to teach young men how to dance in the traditional way.

Although the original idea behind the outstation movement (also known as homeland movement) of the 1970s and 1980s was that Aboriginal Australians could live in remote communities and escape the social issues caused by forced assimilation, Charlie's Country shows the impact of poverty, systemic racism, ongoing colonialism, and governmental neglect on such communities.

At the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Charlie's Country was selected to compete in the Un Certain Regard section and David Gulpilil won Best Actor.