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.