Amiel Courtin-Wilson's documentary, Bastardy (2008), follows the life of Jack Charles a homeless Indigenous Australian actor based in Melbourne who is struggling with a heroin addiction and faces burglary charges. The film gives an intimate insight into the challenges and experiences Charles faced over a period of seven years where he was in and out of prison.
The film has a heightened sense of voyeurism, as an observational-style documentary, following Charles in various settings around Melbourne. As this continues throughout the duration of the film, the audience is corralled into a position where our morality is questioned. This was particularly prominent when Amiel informs Jack the particular day of his arrest warrant and Jack proceeds to tell him that he won't be there when the police will be. At this point of the film, it's clear that Courtin's friendship to Charles has become such a close bond that even Courtin admits in his director's statement: 'I was unsure sure if what I was doing was legal anymore.' This was intriguing to see how deep his connection with Charles had become. The seven year project had become something much more personal than Courtin had planned as the filmmaking had 'paled in comparison to the increasingly profound friendship we developed.' The audience does not see Courtin on screen at any point, which enhances the connection between the viewer and Charles. Meaning that as the film progresses, a sense of camaraderie is made between the two. This rare occurrence is one of the film's best qualities as we, the audience, are more closely connected with the protagonist of the film.
Bastardy is a remarkable Australian documentary, which displays the promising talents of Amiel Courtin-Wilson as an up and coming filmmaker. It is an incredible story displaying the extraordinary survival and perseverance of Jack Charles.
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