Amiel Courtin Wilson’s Bastardy

August 20, 2008

Bastardy, directed by Amiel Courtin Wilson is a bastardly good new film. Its a documentary about Jack Charles, an aboriginal actor, with a fascinating life story. Jack Charles has won the minority sweepstakes, he’s a gay Aboriginal junkie… and sometime cat burgler! But rather than being some lame PC film about such a subject, Courtin Wilson goes tough into the world of Jack Charles. For about 5 years we view Mad Jack and Courtin Wilson films amazing footage of the life on the street of a junky, and the demons that haunt him. The most profound film I’ve seen about someone from the stolen generation, Jack Charles has an amazing English sounding voice and screen presence. He has appeared in dozens of films like The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (a personal fav), Alkinos Tsilimidos’ Tom White and a lot of TV and plays, also. Charles helped found an Aboriginal theatre in Australia back in the 70’s and is now an impressive elder statesman, having kicked the smack and cleaned up his life.

What is remarkable about Bastardy is the way Courtin Wilson takes us into the scumbag Housing commissions with Jack to score heroin, the way he documents tours of past creepy crawls of thievin’ Jack in Kew. Courtin Wilson balances this portrait of the life of a talented outsider actor, with the sadness, depression and, yet somehow, a freedom of a being a homeless Aboriginal junkie. Indeed, Wilson takes a racial stereotype of the “Thieving Abo Smackhead” and turns it on its ear, to reveal the reality, pain and truth behind it. At the Premiere, a half brother of Jack came down to front of stage during a Q&A and revealed his blood connection which he had just discovered, an amazingly poignant moment for all in the cinema.

Bastardy, too, is not afraid to tell it like it is. When a mutual pal of Courtin Wilson and Charles has her computer and a ring stolen and Jack’s sunglasses are found at the scene, the boys in blue are called. The handling of this scene is very well done. Jack ends up in the hands of the jacks, who send him up the river for a year or so. He comes out clean and a new man.

The style of the film is raw and darkly poetic. Coco Rosie is used well on the soundtrack. Clever editing with the help of Richard Lowenstein helps create a dark view of Melbourne and its under denizens. Courtin Wilson obviously has an affinity with this world. He is one of the most talented young filmmakers I’ve seen at MIFF or MUFF, and after having spoken to him a few times, his new projects sound amazing. As usual the funding bodies are nervous due to content. Will things ever change?!

Bastardy is a fucking great film. Jack Charles is a legend. If the subject matter turns you off, don’t let it. Bastardy touches you and leaves you with a new perspective on our Colonial rape of this Earth and its consequences for the real Australians who are connected to the Soil through their Blood.

2 Responses to “Amiel Courtin Wilson’s Bastardy”

  1. I saw the film as well but was one of the people who didn’t applaud at the end. The applause was monstrous which I didn’t think was warranted. I have to agree with you that it was filmed excellently (in a manner which resonated with Jack) but as far as Jack being a role model for young indigenous, which we know they need, he was terrible. He had an opportunity (and charisma) that most of us will never get and he shot it all up his arm. I could never applaud that. Obviously it’s a film you can take either way, but it’s not a new perspective. Do you really believe Jack is the embodiment of all that is modern indigenous?

  2. richard777 said

    “Do you really believe Jack is the embodiment of all that is modern indigenous?”

    No, of course not. But he is a charismatic figure that shows the plight of some Aborigines, in various forms of addiction and some of the issues that cause it. Plus his story is interesting, his career fascinating, etc. He has cleaned up I think, now, which would be good for all concerned.

    The Aboriginal community is a varied and amazing people. I hope to see more of their iconoclastic stories on screen, of the true Australians, from all walks and worlds of life.

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