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Bastardy

An Aboriginal actor's parallel lives as legit hero and heroin-addicted cat burglar are entertainingly captured.

An Aboriginal actor’s parallel lives as legit hero and heroin-addicted cat burglar are entertainingly captured in “Bastardy.” Sexagenarian thesp Jack Charles, a trailblazer for Melbourne’s indigenous community, was seen most widely as a supporting player in Fred Schepisi’s 1978 “The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith.” In Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s docu — filmed over several years and making excellent use of archival footage — Charles is a cheerfully open participant, charting the crossroads of colonization, his drug addiction and personal responsibility. The pic, which opened locally June 25, should post solid arthouse returns.

Diminutive, wiry thesp Charles is first seen shooting up heroin, not wanting to sabotage the film’s aim to be “a true depiction.” After briefly outlining his impact as founder of Melbourne’s first Aboriginal theater and demonstrating his vaudeville skills, Charles then tours his favorite robbery targets in Melbourne’s poshest suburbs. Puckishly, the self-proclaimed “hunter/gatherer” categorizes his larceny as “collecting the rent” from white usurpers of Aboriginal land. Charles’ lifestyle is questionable, but his charm is undeniable; even his most outrageous rationalizations carry a kernel of confrontational truth. Title refers to John Romeril’s 1972 play written for Charles in Melbourne’s Australian Performing Group.

Bastardy

Australia

  • Production: A Film Camp, Palace Films release of a Film Camp production, in association with Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Melbourne Film Festival Premiere Fund, Australian Broadcasting Corp. (International sales: Film Camp, Melbourne.) Produced by Philippa Campey, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Lynn-Maree Milburn, Andrew de Groot. Directed, written by Amiel Courtin-Wilson.
  • Crew: Camera (color/B&W, DV), Courtin-Wilson, Germain McMicking; editors, Jack Hutchings, Richard Lowenstein, Bill Murphy; music, Steve Benwell, CocoRosie. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, May 31, 2009. (In Melbourne, Singapore, Sydney film festivals.) Running time: 84 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Jack Charles, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Artie Charles, Alkinos Tsilimidos.
  • Music By: