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JASPER’S JOURNEY: Director Rachel Perkins turns to deeper material with the coming-of-age drama Jasper Jones.


JASPER’S JOURNEY: After the hit musical Bran Nue Dae, director Rachel Perkins turns to deeper material with the coming-of-age drama Jasper Jones.

When Rachel Perkins made Bran Nue Dae in 2009 she didn’t know she’d be carving her name into Australian film history.

Yet the modest film, based on the classic 1990 Jimmy Chi stage musical, took about $8 million, making it Australia’s most commercially successful indigenous-themed film and Perkins the most successful indigenous director. (The benchmark was subsequently bettered in 2012 by director Wayne Blair and The Sapphires, which earned $20 million).

Risk-taking is nothing new to Perkins, daughter of legendary human rights activist Charles Perkins, AO.

She directed the outstanding documentary series The First Australians, the TV film Mabo (about land rights crusader Eddie Mabo) and the award-winning 1998 feature Radiance.       

Her latest film, Jasper Jones, is a coming-of-age mystery drama based on the best-selling, award-winning novel by Craig Silvey, who co-wrote the screenplay.

Set in a rural town in Western Australia in 1969, it tells of the relationship that grows between a white boy, Charlie (Levi Miller) and an indigenous boy Jasper Jones (Aaron McGrath) when a missing persons case brings them together.  

Jasper Jones is a flawed film and in this lively interview we were frank with Perkins about some of the film’s weaknesses. Understandably, she took issue with many points, yet admitted that nobody could be harder on her than herself.

‘I am the worst critic of the film more than any of you all put together and I see all its faults,’ she says. ‘And that’s the filmmaker’s torture because if we had luxury and time we would all go back and remake our films.’

The interview begins with a general discussion about the making of the film. The critical section begins at 9:28 and because it discusses some plot details we need issue a SPOILER ALERT for those yet to see the film. Certainly, the criticisms put to Perkins will make slightly more sense to those who have seen the film.

Perkins was also subjected to The Schembri Challenge (at 17:46), a roleplay exercise where a lucrative Hollywood deal is offered in exchange for alterations to a film. She provides a great response. 

Please enjoy.

Click PLAY to watch the interview with Rachel Perkins.

Click PLAY to watch a trailer for Jasper Jones