Win­ton film fes­ti­val

Iconic movie maker’s grand­son re­flects on trail­blaz­ing life

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - JOHN AN­DER­SEN­der­

THE grand­son of pi­o­neer­ing Aus­tralian film­maker Charles Chau­vel says the di­rec­tor of clas­sic Aus­tralian films such as Jedda and Forty Thou­sand Horse­men was a so­cial com­men­ta­tor ahead of his time.

Speak­ing at the Vi­sion Splen­did Film Fes­ti­val in Win­ton yesterday, Rick Carls­son said that af­ter his grand­fa­ther made his 1955 film Jedda, the story of an Abo­rig­i­nal girl raised by a white woman on a North­ern Ter­ri­tory sta­tion, he was told he would never make another film in Aus­tralia.

He said Jedda’s un­flinch­ing ex­am­i­na­tion of White Aus­tralia’s pa­ter­nal­is­tic at­ti­tude to black Aus­tralia dur­ing the con­ser­va­tive post­war Men­zie’s years was seen as an af­front to Aus­tralian val­ues.

Chau­vel, as a re­sult, was pil- lo­riedl i in some cir­cles as a class traitor, but he rode out the crit­i­cism and con­tro­versy to be­come a star in his own right.

“Jedda was Aus­tralia’s first fea­ture film made in colour,” Mr Carls­son said. “The rea­son it was such a suc­cess was be­cause my grand­fa­ther was such a great writer and sto­ry­teller. He was an artist.”

Jedda was re­leased to an Aus­tralian au­di­ence, most of whom in 1955 had never ven­tured be­yond big city sub­urbs.

Few Aus­tralians in the ’ 50s had ever been in a po­si­tion where they might have come away with an un­der­stand­ing of the in­tri­cate and some­times blunt na­ture of black- white re­la­tions in the vast­ness of the Aus­tralian in­land. “You could imag­ine that it was a very dif­fi­cult film to make at this time,” Mr Carls­son said.

Chau­vel was ahead of his time, an artist with a so­cial con­science, but a ter­rific yarn spin­ner as well.

Mr Carls­son doesn’t know which di­rec­tion his grand- fa­ther’s sto­ry­tellingt lli would have headed, but he does know one thing: he would have been amazed at to­day’s tech­nol­ogy.

“He was us­ing old film stock. He was deal­ing with dif­fi­cult nat­u­ral con­di­tions in re­mote lo­ca­tions,” he said.

Win­ton iden­tity Peter Evert said that when Jedda was shown at his open- air Royal Theatre in 1955 more than 600 peo­ple came over two nights. “It was a big show at the time,” Mr Evert said.

Mr Carls­son said he never knew his grand­fa­ther who died in 1959, aged 62.

“I knew my grand­mother Elsa Chau­vel well,” he said. “She al­ways told me how de­ter­mined he was.

“He be­lieved in help­ing cre­ate an Aus­tralian film in­dus­try and telling Aus­tralian sto­ries to a world­wide au­di­ence.

“This was dur­ing a time when there was hardly any sup­port for Aus­tralian film­mak­ers.

“You could imag­ine that it was a very dif­fi­cult film to make at this time.”

Through films such as Jedda, Forty Thou­sand Horse­men, Rats of To­bruk and Sons of Matthew, Chau­vel helped launch the cin­e­matic ca­reers of ac­tors such as Peter Finch, Er­rol Flynn, Michael Pate and Chips Raf­ferty.

“It is a great hon­our now for me to be here in Win­ton and to see Jedda and Forty Thou­sand Horse­men be­ing shown in the open- air pic­ture theatre,” Mr Carls­son said.


RICH HER­ITAGE: Rick Carls­son, grand­son of leg­endary Aus­tralian film di­rec­tor Charles Chau­vel, in Win­ton for the Vi­sion Splen­did Film Fes­ti­val; ( inset from left) Mr Chau­vel and wife Elsa, and a scene from Jedda.

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