Posts Tagged ‘Geoffrey Rush’

Pictures of Stranger Tides

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

The King’s Speech was fine, I guess…but Best Picture, really?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

I was pretty shocked when I read that The King’s Speech had gotten the most nominations (12) at the Oscars this year.  For me, it was really nothing more than a middling film that I felt like I had seen countless times before: poor little rich prince needs to overcome hurdles in order to succeed.  But this time, it seemed like the hurdle was fairly silly.  I don’t mean to belittle folks who have speech impediments, as I understand that they can make life difficult for those who suffer from those afflictions, but it’s not like the guy was dealing with a fatal disease or anything.  The fact that King George VI stammered is a sad foot-note, I suppose, but it’s hard for me to really get behind the guy in a meaningful way when I know that the stakes are not that high.  World War II and Adolf Hitler are sort of looming in the background, but I’m not really that terrified that the future safety of the planet is at stake just because one of the tangential figures involved in that war had a speech impediment.

I really enjoyed the performances of the cast for the most part, but I was fairly underwhelmed by Colin Firth’s portrayal of the titular king.  It’s not that he didn’t do a good job stammering, but rather that I didn’t feel like I knew him all that well by the end of the film.  It’s partly the fault of the script, but what do I really know about this man besides the fact that he has a speech impediment?  The script keeps telling me he’s noble and Geoffrey Rush’s character tells him that “he’s the bravest man” he’s ever met, but why exactly is he brave?  It seems like he’s quite willing to walk away from therapy and help several times throughout the film because it doesn’t suit his royal blood to discuss trivial matters with his therapist.  That doesn’t really strike me as bravery.  Also, Firth comes off as being whiny quite often in his therapy sessions, which doesn’t fit into my definition of “brave.”

I thought Rush and Helena Bonham Carter were good, as they almost always are.  Guy Pearce seemed to relish playing the caddish older brother.  But the film as a whole didn’t really feel all that vital to me.  When we finally get the speech at the end, it’s really not such a great speech.  So, we’re just supposed to look at this as a victory because he didn’t stutter much, but what about the content of the speech?  It’s another example of the film telling me to feel something because other characters feel it rather than making me feel that emotion.

There is also a decided lack of tension in the film, even if you don’t know the history of what happened, because there’s no other possible way for the film to end.  Every single time Firth and Rush part ways, we know they are going to come together again to finish out the therapy session because the film is firmly entrenched in a certain genre with a certain plot.  The subplots don’t inform the characters any more than when we first meet them, there is no great change besides the speech of one particular character, and the film slowly comes to the only logical conclusion.  Some films are about seeing the puzzle pieces come together in the way that you imagine it, but there are no puzzle pieces here, there is nothing to put together.  If you hadn’t seen the film and just pictured what it would be about and what would happen, you could probably safely say that you’ve seen the movie.

Look, I don’t have the energy to mount some big take-down of the film because it’s not an awful movie.  It’s just a pedestrian one that is handsomely mounted, like a decent HBO biopic.  If it won Best Picture, it would be more like Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan (although in my eyes, the winner that year should have been The Thin Red Line) than Crash over Brokeback Mountain (although in my eyes, the winner that year should have been Munich).  Still, I do think we’ll find it laughable in ten years if somehow The King’s Speech beats out the obviously superior The Social Network or Black Swan.

I think the Academy Awards should always, always, always be about rewarding the best film of the year and often, that’s not the case because of political jockeying.  But, I would sincerely hope that the Academy members look at their ballots and think about which film will age the best, which film defines the year it came out, and which one they won’t be embarrassed about in ten years.  I don’t see how it could be The King’s Speech.

Nominee Reactions

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

“It’s a nice sound to wake up to the phone ringing on Oscar day.”
– Amy Adams, nominated for The Fighter

“It is with great honor and humility that I receive my Oscar nomination. I have been included with a group of top-notch actors who I respect and admire. I am humbled to be in their presence. I also would like to acknowledge the power of ensemble acting. The kind of acting that happened in this movie does not exist in a bubble. Any honor that I receive must be shared with Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Josh Hutcherson, Mia Wasikowska, the rest of the cast, and of course the inimitable Lisa Cholodenko. Thank you to the Academy. This nomination is a win for Marriage Equality and that is the most I could hope for.”
– Mark Ruffalo, nominated for The Kids Are All Right

“This is a big surprise. I don’t agree with the concept of awards ceremonies, but I’m prepared to make an exception for the ones I’m nominated for. The last time there was a naked man covered in gold paint in my house, it was me.”
– Banksy, nominated for Exit Through the Gift Shop

“One thing I know is I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and it’s taken me 20 to get here. In another 20, I may be dead. I’ve been really trying to enjoy it and soak it up and really be grateful for it.”
– Mark Ruffalo, nominated for The Kids Are All Right

“I could not have shot The Fighter (two years ago) without Amy in that freaking hotel. We had a ball and a blast, I can’t wait to see what she’s wearing, and yes, Amy, I AM going to to wear high heels!”
– Melissa Leo, nominated for The Fighter

4 nominations and 4 kids.  I am damn proud!”
– Annette Bening, nominated for The Kids Are All Right

“As my 3-year-old daughter said, ‘Yay!’ I couldn’t put it any better myself.”
– Helena Bonham Carter, nominated for The King’s Speech

“[The nomination] is just wonderful. It was a labor of love for all of us. It was a wonderful film to be involved with. It broke all the rules … We’re very happy with being the underdogs. We’ll have a much better evening, actually. We’ll have a lot of fun. With Slumdog, there was a lot of pressure on us to win. And this time, we’re not the frontrunner, and we’re incredibly happy participants in the race, and we’ll watch everyone else get very tense.”
— Simon Beaufoy, Benomianted for 127 Hours

“What honor it is to be nominated for an Academy Award!  I’m actually on my way to the Van Nuys immigration and naturalization office for a  biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment.   I’m looking at the Oscar nom as a good sign!  Maybe they’ll let me stick around and become a citizen now!”
– Dean DeBlois, writer/director of How to Train Your Dragon

“For Toy Story 3 to be recognized by the Academy as not only one of the best animated films of the year, but also as one of the ten best pictures of the year, is both humbling and overwhelming. I’m speechless; I feel like I’ve been blasted to infinity and beyond.”
— Lee Unkrich, director of Toy Story 3

“Try as I could to act cool and not care, as soon as I heard our names called, I started crying like a little kid. Pardon the cliché, but this truly is a dream come true. I want to thank the Academy for this most phenomenal honor.”
– Stuart Blumberg, nominated for The Kids Are All Right

“It’s so fantastic. I was up most of the night but nodded off and missed my actual announcement. But I got a call right away and lots of text messages from my ex-husband and my family and friends. I knew we were doing good work all along, but I had no idea it would get this kind of affection.”
— Jackie Weaver, Best Supporting Actress nominee, Animal Kingdom

“It seems like I was fired out of a cannon this time last year, and now it’s like I’m orbiting Pluto.”
– Colin Firth, nominated for The King’s Speech

“It’s a testament to the skill and the dedication devoted to this film by a very talented team of artists. And of course I sincerely hope that Jacques Tati would be proud of what we have achieved with his marvellous story.”
— Sylvain Chomet, nominated for The Illusionist

“As an Australian, I’m as excited to be recognized and honored by the Academy as my character must have been when his London speech therapy business flourished when the future King Of England happened to pop by one day. This story has struck such a rich resonant chord with audiences of all ages, which is very exciting — to have your work honored by your industry peers is even better.”
– Geoffrey Rush, nominated for The King’s Speech

“I was building Lego with my son and lost track of the time. Then the phone started ringing and I realized it must be good news. I’m incredibly touched and humbled. I grew up watching the awards and never thought this would be my reality. I’m thrilled for Natalie who trained tirelessly for a year and then trusted me with her soul and spirit.  And I’m so thankful the academy recognized my long time collaborators Matty, Andy and Scott. They are such focused and committed artists and their work inspired me every day.”
– Darren Aronofsky, nominated for Black Swan

“I think that what resonated is that it’s not a timely story, I think what resonated is that it is a timeless story, one with themes as old as storytelling itself: of friendship and loyalty, of betrayal, power, class, jealousy. These are things that Aeschylus would have written about or Shakespeare would have written about. And it’s just lucky for me that neither of those guys were available so I got to write about it.”
– Aaron Sorkin, nominated for The Social Network

“Currently celebrating with my colleagues three feet above the ground.  Not used to this much joy, or this much champagne at this hour.”
– Colin Firth, nominated for The King’s Speech

“I’m very honored and humbled to be recognized by the Academy with two nominations. Working with Danny Boyle is such a remarkable experience, and I’m so fortunate to have had the opportunity to collaborate with him again. I’m immensely grateful to Fox Searchlight for their efforts on this incredible film based on the courageous story of Aaron Rolston.”
– A.R. Rahman, nominated for 127 Hours

“We are overjoyed that the Academy gave our film four nominations — what a journey, from years getting the movie together to Sundance last year to the Kodak Theatre next month! We made the film because we had something to say about the power of love, and I want to thank the Academy members from the bottom of my heart for showing us their love!”
– Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, nominated for The Kids Are All Right

“I’m celebrating with the people who helped get me there — you and your colleagues in the various forms of press and media that have long witnessed my work and long written and spoken beautiful things about it and really, truly helped me get to this day. Everyone asks about celebrations and glasses of champagne. That I get the opportunity to talk to all of you and say: ‘We did it! This is awesome! Look at us now!'”
– Melissa Leo, nominated for The Fighter

“To be nominated in the animated feature film category is is an unbelievable thrill and honor.  I honestly couldn’t sleep last night in anticipation of the announcement.  When I was a kid I watched the Oscars with my grandmother – we never missed a broadcast.  I could never have imagined that as kid growing up in Colorado I would have a  chance to be a part of this amazing thing.    DreamWorks gave us a  place where we were free to create and pushed us to never ever stop short of the best we could do.”
Chris Sanders, writer/director of How to Train Your Dragon

“If you get six nominations, including best picture and best actor — I’d go see that movie. So I think it’s enormously important for the film.”
– Christian Colson, producer of 127 Hours

“I had no idea they were announcing today. I swear! I was totally taken by surprise. I just dropped the kids off at carpool. I was about five minutes from the school with a car full of kids. With so many kids, I didn’t even realize it was today. I’m glad I forgot about it. It’s made it all the more — I don’t know, just sweet and poignant and unexpected, you know?”
— Mark Ruffalo, nominated for The Kids Are All Right

“My cup runneth over. This is my tenth film musical, and Disney’s 50th animated film. An Oscar nomination puts the whole experience beyond words for me.” 
– Alan Menken, nominated for Tangled

“I am so honored and grateful to the Academy for this recognition,” Us Weekly magazine quoted Portman as saying in a statement. ‘It is a wonderful culmination of the ten-year journey with Darren to make this film. Making ‘Black Swan’ is already the most meaningful experience of my career, and the passion shown for the film has completed the process of communication between artists and audience. I am so thankful for the support we have received and I share this honor with the entire cast and crew of the film, especially Darren Aronofsky.”
– Natalie Portman, nominated for Black Swan

“I am truly overwhelmed with gratitude by this recognition by the Academy this morning.  I’m smiling from ear to ear knowing that lightning can strike twice and it feels electrifying.  I’m thrilled to be amongst these tremendously talented artists. A big congratulations to all the nominees!”
– Jeremy Renner, nominated for The Town

“It took us seven years, 13 financiers, and a 23-day shoot to make our film a reality. By recognizing Kids, the Academy has not only honored us but has given us hope and inspiration to the independent film community.” 
– Celine Rattray, producer, The Kids Are All Right

‘Playing Charlene was truly an inspiring experience and I’m so proud and grateful to have been a part of this movie. It’s an honor to be nominated in the same category as Melissa, and alongside such incredible actresses.’
– Amy Adams, nominated for The Fighter

“What an extraordinary journey this film has taken me on! ‘Rabbit Hole’ has been a labor of love and I’m so thankful to John Cameron Mitchell, David Lindsay-Abaire and the brilliant cast. This nomination reflects all of the heart and soul that these people have put into it and I can’t thank them enough.”
– Nicole Kidman, nominated for Rabbit Hole

“It has been such an incredible journey with ‘The Fighter’ and one that I am grateful to share with David O. Russell, Christian, Melissa, Amy, my fellow producers and the Ward and Eklund families, who are the heart and soul of the film.  Thank you to the Academy for this tremendous honor.”
Mark Wahlberg, producer, The Fighter

“Ten seems like an awful lot. We don’t want to take anyone else’s.”
– Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, True Grit

“On behalf of everyone associated with ‘The Fighter,’ we are deeply honored by The Academy’s recognition of our film.  This has been a labor of love for us and an incredible, rewarding  journey that continues with this nomination.”
— David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, producers of The Fighter

“To have ‘Toy Story 3’ represented in the Best Picture category is a great honor, and a fitting tribute to director Lee Unkrich, producer Darla Anderson, screenwriter Michael Arndt, and all of the talented people at Pixar, who worked so hard to live up to and exceed the standards and expectations of Toy Story fans and moviegoers all over the world.”
– John Lasseter, on behalf of Toy Story 3

 “It’s incredible to think that this morning’s Oscar nominations go back 7 years to the fateful day Stuart Blumberg and I crossed paths in a Los Angeles coffee shop and agreed to write KIDS together. If luck is preparation meeting opportunity, then that was the opportunity, hands down! I’m thrilled that I’ll be at the Kodak Theatre next month with Stuart, Mark Ruffalo, Annette Bening, Jeff Levy-Hinte, and my other producers who worked so hard to get this film made. I only regret that Julianne Moore didn’t get the acting nomination she so richly deserved. But the Picture nomination is as much hers as ours. We couldn’t have made this film without her heart, smarts and loyalty, not to mention her outstanding performance.”
– Lisa Cholodenko, nomianted for The Kids Are All Right

“The nomination is wonderful because working on ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was one of the best creative experiences of my entire career. Tim Burton trusted us with his vision and the work on the screen is the result of an amazing collaboration with hundreds of brilliant artists, including my fellow nominees and a great team on set. You hope to have an experience like this at least once in career and I am so happy that our peers recognized the extraordinary complexity, detail and accomplishment that the visual effects in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ represent.”
– Ken Ralston, nominated for Alice in Wonderland

“I had a really hard time sleeping last night — for several reasons, but knowing this thing was happening in the morning is really nervewracking. You never can tell. I certainly knew it was a flashy role. It was electric on the page. But there’s so many things that can go wrong when making a film, who knows what it will turn out to be. And it certainly pulled together a fantastic film and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
– Jeremy Renner, nominated for The Town

“I’ve got a pretty full day coming up. I’ll stop by Mark’s house, I’ll stop by David’s house, give ’em both a big hug. [I’ll] try and stop by Christian’s house although he’s probably holed up and won’t even turn on the TV until 10 a.m.”
– Ryan Kavanaugh, CEO of Relativity Media, on The Fighter nominations

“We felt this film was an important movie for our time because it describes our time. And in so many ways this is kind of timeless. And what an incredible pairing of a director and a journalist and a writer, in Aaron Sorkin. And what an incredible thing for Sony Pictures to have stepped up and produced this film and believed in it and gotten it out there.”
— Kevin Spacey, executive producer, The Social Network

Golden Globe Nominations Reactions

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

“A lot of tequila will run in our veins tonight.”
– Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of Biutiful

“To be selected with these extraordinary nominees is an honor and, boy, was I ready for some good news!”
– Michael Douglas, star of  Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

“There will be a lot of ballet jokes. Last night Letterman made fun of the film. I think he said, ‘If you don’t want to celebrate Christmas, you can go see two Jewish girls make out.’”
– Darren Aronofsky, director of Black Swan

“This nomination is an honor and I am thrilled to share it with my friend, my co-conspirator, and my favorite dance partner, Ryan Gosling. Thank you so much to The Hollywood Foreign Press, The Weinstein Company and of course to the inestimable Derek Cianfrance, whose vision led and sustained us all.”
-Michelle Williams, star of Blue Valentine

“I never lost the sight of the fact that this was about real person, and I was so appreciative that the material brought on the talent it did like Christian (Bale) and Amy (Adams),” he said. “It mirrors my family is many ways. Of course it takes a very special person to choose fighting and a lot of time fighting chooses them. After doing this film and going through the training I definitely have new respect for Mickey (Ward) and what his family went through.”
– Mark Wahlberg, star of The Fighter

“I think in Australia, because I’ve been around for 48 years, people think of me as a piece of old comfortable furniture. And now suddenly  foreigners like me.”
– Jacki Weaver, star of Animal Kingdom

“Working on Winter’s Bone with such talented people was an incredible experience, and never did I dream that it would lead to this moment. I’m so proud of this movie and words can’t describe being in the company of these extraordinary actresses. ‘Thank you,’ is the best I can do right now.”
– Jennifer Lawrence, star of Winter’s Bone

“I can remember when I found out that I had been nominated for ‘The Full Monty’ I was clearing cat sick off the floor. I really must get a more glamorous life one of these days.”
— Simon Beaufoy , 127 Hours screenwriter

“What an exciting morning for our film, especially when you consider what a terrific year it was for movies.  Thank you Hollywood Foreign Press Association for this honor and also for recognizing Mark, Melissa, Christian and David’s great work.  I am deeply proud of the film and to be honored for it is icing on the cake.”
– Amy Adams, star of The Fighter

“I am absolutely thrilled with all the nominations for The King Speech and hugely grateful to the Hollywood Foreign Press.  I am so delighted for our entire cast, composer, Alexandre and for David Seidler whose journey towards making this film started as a small boy listening to King George VI on the radio.  I am so grateful to my extraordinary cast and crew for helping to bring this unlikely story of friendship to life.  Thank you to the Hollywood Foreign Press for supporting our film and making me very happy at 2:00 in the morning in Melbourne, Australia!”
-Tom Hooper, director of The King’s Speech

“I’m very happy to get a nomination for The King’s Speech on the eve of my daughter’s birthday, it means I get a prezzie as well. If it reminds any producer, director, writer in the profession that I’m alive and kicking and available for work, then job well done. Thank you Hollywood Foreign Press and everyone that made me look good in The King’s Speech.”
-Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech

“It is so thrilling to be nominated with such great people. Its Disney’s 50th animated film, my 10th Disney musical and it feels like my first time all over again!” 
– Alan Menken, nominated for Best Song for Tangled

“This film’s been a fighter from the start to finish, from the true story of Micky Ward’s struggle to find himself and become a champion, to Mark Wahlberg’s struggle to get this movie made, to the scrappy way we made the film in 33 days, to the actors who took on the roles with a ferocity that is not to be matched. I’m grateful to the Hollywood Foreign Press, and our producers, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Ryan Kavanaugh, Relativity, and Paramount for believing in our story.”
– David O. Russell, director of The Fighter

Tangled has been a labor of love since its beginning, and the passion and dedication of our crew shows in every frame,” commented director Byron Howard.  Director Nathan Greno adds, “It’s a true highpoint in our careers to have Tangled acknowledged by the Hollywood Foreign Press. The nomination is a real thrill and an incredible way to honor Walt Disney Animation’s 50th feature film.”
Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, directors of Tangled 

“You don’t expect late in your career to actually meet somebody that you form a very strong friendship and bond with. Which certainly happened with me and Colin [Firth] and Tom [Hooper]. It’s a rather embarrassing triumvirate of man love.”
– Geoffrey Rush, star of The King’s Speech

“I’ve had the time of my life working alongside my colleagues on The Social Network and I’m grateful to the HFPA for recognizing their great, hard work. On a personal note it’s humbling to be nominated alongside six of the best screenwriters in town.” 
– Aaron Sorkin, screenplay for The Social Network

“The category is insane. It’s, like, what the hell is going on here?”
— Emma Stone , star of Easy A


“It is an incredible honor and joy to be embraced with such warmth and appreciation by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the work and sacrifices we made on I AM LOVE.  I am humbled that in Hollywood and America in general – as well as the international community – this film has enjoyed an acclaimed and embraced theatrical release. It is truly unexpected and further strengthens my belief in the power of the language of film.   I celebrate this amazing result by thanking my partners in First Sun, all my producers and of course with my wonderful star Tilda Swinton.  Thank you.”
-Luca Guadagnino, director of I Am Love

 “I couldn’t be more thrilled for my colleagues that we were recognized so richly this morning.  Huge thanks to the HFPA for a big vote of confidence in our film — we’re very grateful and very honored.”

– Scott Rudin, producer of The Social Network
“A huge thank you to the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. I am thrilled and extremely grateful that ‘The Social Network’ has been acknowledged. I am eternally grateful to David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin for creating a film of which we are all so proud.”
– Dana Brunetti, producer of The Social Network


“It was an honor to be part of this wonderful movie and we’re so glad it was acknowledged by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.”
– Jesse Eisenberg, star of The Social Network

“I’m very touched to have been nominated by the HFPA this morning and am thrilled that The Social Network has been recognized, as well as David, Aaron, Jesse and Trent. The process of Making this movie was an incredibly creative and joyous experience and to see the film honored in this way is truly a thrill and is something for which I’m very grateful.”
– Andrew Garfield, star of The Social Network

“We are incredibly flattered by the recognition we’re receiving for our work scoring The Social Network.  Working with David Fincher and his team ranks among the most rewarding creative experiences either of us have experienced, and we are thankful for the opportunity.  Being part of a team and watching a project you truly believe in resonate with the outside world is its own reward, but this feels pretty great, too.”
– Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, nominated for The Social Network

“I went out and had my late-night supper as I’m doing a play here [Diary of a Madmen] in Sydney and then experienced the curious phenomena of not being able to connect to the Internet. I was in a complete technological funk — I couldn’t get onto the wifi at my hotel, I couldn’t find a TV channel that was broadcasting the announcements, so my 15-year-old son in Melbourne was holding his phone to the television there to get the information. [The nomination news] was a kind of dad-and-son thing, which is really quite nice. It’s 1:45 a.m. And I should be out clubbing but I have to get to sleep now as I have a matinee tomorrow … We just took [The King’s Speech] from square one and tried to make it as vivid and as lively and as intriguing as we possibly could and that seems to be radiating out to the office, which is great.”
– Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

“Just a few weeks ago I didn’t know if this movie was going to come out. It’s just a testament to just hold on. You never know what’s right around the corner. None of us gave up hope on it. We just believed that eventually it would find its way. I know I held onto that thought. And look what happened. It’s finding its way. There are amazing women out there, and I just wish that some of these women were in movies that were bigger. Somebody brought it to my attention the other day that all the big movies have great parts for men, but where are the women? The women are in the smaller, independent, more boutique movies. And that’s okay because at least we’re there. I hope people will make an effort and get to see them.”
– Halle Berry, star of Frankie and Alice

The King’s Speech, actor Geoffrey Rush

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

DP/30 Sneak iPhone Peek – The King’s Speech: Firth & Rush

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Sneak Peeks of DP/30 conversations (here via iPhone/coming in hi-def) with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush of The King’s Speech.

Digital Nation: Bran Nue Dae

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

 For all American moviegoers know, Australia’s Aborigines spend the bulk of their free time wandering around the Outback questing visions, scrawling spiritual graffiti on cliffs and communing with ghosts of their ancestors. We learned this from David Gulpilil’s “Black Boy,” in Walkabout, his Neville Bell, in Crocodile Dundee, and most of the other characters he’s played in his illustrative 40-year career.

In such films as The Final Wave and Rabbit-Proof Fence, Gulpilil helped introduce outsiders, as well, to Australia’s profoundly racist history and many Aborigines’ inability to assimilate. More recently, in Rolf de Heer’s brilliant story-within-a-story, Ten Canoes, Gulpilil narrated a epic tale passed down through 1,000 years of Yolngu oral history.

Although Gulpilil is as celebrated for his indigenous dancing as for his acting, he doesn’t appear in Rachel Perkins’ joyous musical of Aboriginal life, Bran Nue Dae, opening in limited release on Friday. And that’s significant, how, you ask.

Gulpilil’s absence speaks volumes about how far the Australian cinema has come since the days when every depiction of its native people was crafted to elicit tears of sadness and rage, or celebrate their ancient mysteries. Perkins’ adaptation of Jimmy Chi’s immensely popular Bran Nue Dae uses an actual, potentially ruinous event in the life of the playwright as a jumping off point for music, dance, comedy and a celebration of life on the turquoise coast, not the arid Outback.

“I remember watching ‘Walkabout’ when I was 15 or so,” recalls Perkins, whose father was an Arrernte/Kalkadoon from the Central Desert, near Alice Springs, and whose mother is an Australian of German background. “I loved it, even though nothing in it matched my experience growing up in Canberra. ‘Bran Nue Dae’ breaks from tradition in that it’s not about a problem or social issues, nor does it romanticize these ‘noble savages.’

 “It’s about Aboriginal people, from Broome, telling jokes and acting normal.”

It took a long time before Hollywood filmmakers could do the same with stories about minorities here. Tyler Perry’s made a fortune depicting African-Americans in what might be considered day-to-day, non-topical situations, while Spike Lee, arguably a far better director, has struggled to meet the commercial expectations of studio executives. For far too many years, films targeted at Hispanic audiences focused on gang activity and illegal immigration. Those issues haven’t gone away, certainly, but filmmakers have yet to achieve the same success on the big screen as the producers of telenovelas have found on television.

Socially realistic comedies and dramas about the indigenous people of American and Canada are even more difficult to find. If anything, Hollywood has found it easier to correct its own record of misinformation, racial stereotyping and demonizing of 18th and 19th Century Indians, than to seek out small gems, such as Pow-Wow Highway and Smoke Signals. It’s even stumbled in its attempts to build a market for films based on the best-selling mysteries of Navajo author Tony Hillerman.

Before arriving in Los Angeles to promote Bran Nue Dae, Perkins was in Santa Fe for a special screening and Q&A held to coincide with both the annual Indian Market and Native Cinema Showcase. Perkins and other Aboriginal artists may have been successful in exploiting government programs to build creative networks in Australia, but their North American peers still have a long way to go. Here, of course, box-office realities trump social responsibility every day of the week.

Ironically, to realize her dream, Perkins was required to move from south-eastern Canberra to the place her father left to begin his journey. Located 1,200 dusty miles from the Australian capital, Alice Springs provided the 18-year-old with an opportunity to cut her teeth at the Aboriginal-owned TV station, Imparja. In 1991, she moved to Sydney and a job at SBS Television as executive producer of the Aboriginal Television Unit, for which she produced and directed documentaries and the children’s series, Manyu Wanna.

Two years later, Perkins established her own production company, Blackfella Films, which focuses on work by indigenous people around the world. It also has produced movies and installation projects for corporate clients and festivals. In 1995, she was awarded the first indigenous scholarship to study producing at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School.

It’s taken nearly 20 years for Bran Nue Dae to make the leap from the stage to the movies. The semi-autobiographical musical was written by Broome native Jimmy Chi and his band Kuckles, based on their own experiences. Chi’s broad Aboriginal/Asian ancestry reflects the ethnic diversity of the pearling and tourism town, which is on the far northwestern corner of Australia.  

Set in the late 1960s, it tells the story of a likeable young teenager from Broome named Willie (Rocky McKenzie), who agrees to move to faraway Perth to fulfill his mother’s dream of him becoming a priest. Willie’s never met his father and has only recently become interested enough in girls to consider having a girlfriend, so the separation isn’t as traumatic as it might have been for other boys his age. Still, Broome’s the kind of place that inspires nostalgia in its expatriates. (Charles Perkins followed a similar path in the 1950s, after his mother encouraged him to attend St. Francis College for Aboriginal Boys – at the time, one of the few places offering career paths for indigenous youth — which was 800 miles to the south. He didn’t meet his father until much later in his life, either.)

Once at the heavily regimented school, Willie, came under the protective gaze of the quirky Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush). The otherwise upstanding lad would disappoint the priest by acknowledging his participation in a midnight raid on the kitchen’s pop- and candy-filled refrigerator.

It was a relatively minor offense, but Benedictus was an obsessive counter of lost objects. Instead of merely smacking Willie’s knuckles and being done with it, though, Benedictus uses the occasion of a student assembly to rant about how grateful the Aborigine boys should be for their great opportunity not only to serve the Lord, but also to more easily assimilate into the white population.

The incident does however serve to kick-start the musical half of the story. After taking Benedictus’ punishment like a champ, Willie leads the student body in song, “There’s nothing I would rather be/Than to be an Aborigine/and watch you take my precious land away/For nothing gives me greater joy/than to watch you fill each girl and boy/with superficial existential shit.”

As harsh as the lyrics sound, the effect is quite the opposite. With the students – amateurs, mostly – gyrating wildly in the aisles, the production number is equal parts Starstruck, Strictly Ballroom and The Blues Brothers.

“The ‘Aborigine’ number is almost a parody of the musical form,” Perkins allows. “We cast the kids in one day, held a rehearsal and got them dressed. We didn’t want the number to be slick … poke fun at what the priest was saying.

“People don’t seem to like musicals much these days, but the genre can produce surprises. We tried to integrate some familiar songs to the originals … but it just isn’t normal for people to break into song like that.”

At the time the musical was set, the Australian government was still promoting forced assimilation over integration, usually through marriage, while denying or limiting full-blooded Aborigines such basic rights as access to public education, raising their own children, freedom of movement, marrying without permission, eating in restaurants, entering a pub, swimming in a public pool or having the right to vote. Unlike sheep, their numbers weren’t included in the census until 1968. Charles Perkins, the first Aborigine to graduate from an Australian university, was a highly visible crusader for lifting such restrictions and returning native lands to indigenous people.

The priest’s diatribe notwithstanding, Bran Nue Dae is a story about reconciliation, self-discovery and love.

“It reminds us that we’re all inherently the same,” said the 40-year-old Perkins. “We all have problems and frailties, and we all can be accepted and forgiven. We didn’t want to crucify anyone, including the church.”

After the assembly-hall scene, Willie decides to risk his mother’s disappointment by beating a 1,500-mile path to Broome. Almost penniless, however, the boy needed some help.

He found it in a hobo camp, where similarly broke Aboriginal elders passed the bottle around, swapped lies and sang songs. One of old-timers was from Broome and longed to return home while he was stay capable of making the trip. The geezer, Uncle Tadpole (Ernie Dingo), scams Willie out of his pocket change, but cons the owners of a VW van into giving them a ride after faking an accident.

The hippie couple is on a quasi-mystical quest of their own, so it’s easy for Uncle Tadpole to fill their heads with guilt and quaint Aboriginal superstitions. Before long, Willie recognizes something of himself in the old prankster and becomes a co-conspirator.

A wrong turn gives Perkins an opportunity to introduce other Aussie eccentrics, some of whom join the pilgrimage to Broome, where Willie hopes the apple of his eye, Rosie, will see him in more macho light and forgive an earlier dating faux pas. Coincidentally, in the interim, the young woman (Australian Idol -winner Jessica Mauboy) has given up gospel and joined a rock band.

Bran Nue Dae benefits mightily from being shot on locations true to Chi’s experience, instead of the Australian film industry’s equivalent of Vancouver or Toronto. In addition to Broome’s pristine waters, the red sand and oases of the coastal desert offer several visual treats.

“The scene in which Rosie thinks she’s being stood up by Willie was set in Broome’s outdoor cinema, the oldest such theater in the world,” Perkins said. “That’s where Jimmy Chi watched his first Hollywood movies and we had the world premiere. People from all over were drawn to Broome, because it was the second largest producer of pearls.

“Spiritually, Catholic and Aboriginal traditions co-existed well, and the blend of nationalities resulted in a gorgeous mix of children.”

Looking ahead, Perkins has another movie and mini-series on the drawing boarding, as well as other projects associated with Blackfella. In the unlikely case she runs out of ideas, she might consider doing a biopic of her father, who, in addition to being the country’s leading advocate for civil rights, played soccer well enough to have been invited to try out for Manchester United and be inducted into Australia’s football hall of fame.

She’s already collaborated on a documentary about the Freedom Rides he led into territory as hostile to reform as any in the United States during the same period, but that’s only part of her family’s history. Charles Perkins remained a firebrand and effective fighter for Aboriginal causes until his death in 2000. His commitment prompted the National Trust of Australia to name him one of the country’s 100 Living National Treasures.

It’s a distinction both Perkins may someday share.