INTERVIEW: Rachel Perkins talks new film “JASPER JONES”
Following advanced screenings of Jasper Jones, Maria Dunne caught up with director Rachel Perkins.
Rachel Perkins is a sharp, compassionate director. She integrates her Aboriginal heritage (Arrernte/Kalkadoon) and her love of the Australian media within her work. Jasper Jones pays “homage” to her past but also shows a push by Perkins to make work for “entertainment’s sake”.
“It has been a long road… I really wanted to speak to a wider audience and Bran Nu Dae was that sort of film, we had big ambitions and a big audience. Jasper Jones is an extension of that. When I first read the book, I felt it had potential to speak to a big audience but still have the things that resonated with me and that I wanted to say. I am interested in speaking to a wide audience but also, in doing so having stuff that resonates with me.”
Clearly, Perkin’s work had strong parallels to her own experiences, with her films holding themes of Australia, identity and belonging; Jasper Jones is no exception.
“…I’ve been very purposefully making films that express big moment or big movements in Indigenous history. Because when I grew up in school I didn’t learn anything about Indigenous culture at school and I thought film can fill that gap that has been left, as it speaks to millions of people and it can change hearts and minds.
“So I used it as a medium for that purpose and I feel very privileged to have done that. This film is a departure from that as it isn’t as purpose driven… but it still has to mean something otherwise why would you do it?
“[Identity] has been an issue for our nation, an issue for me personally and an issue addressed in the film. I think empathy also; I think this is a big theme for this film… I think Charlie was chosen for his ability to empathise with Jasper, and Craig Silvey talks very eloquently about how some people go through life never walking in other people’s shoes, never understanding others, just being in a sort of protective bubble, but Charlie certainly goes into these other worlds and is able to go in other people’s shoes and that is certainly relevant today…”
Jasper’s portrayal was seen as a particular hurdle, particularly with Jasper being used in the medium of film instead of the thematically layered, “man of the night”.
“…There was a lot of debate on a scene where [Jasper] was arrested- caught- by the cops that happens in the daytime and didn’t occur in the book and that was due to him being illusive, we never see his home, we never see him in the day and the whole town is divided between the darkness and the day and Jasper inhabits the darkness.
“He is imagined sort of in the novel in Charlie’s head, Charlie thinks about him and speculates about him and tries to understand him and you are getting Charlie’s reflection on him and imagination and that’s the main difference between a film and a book. In a film, you see everything so the speculation is less because they are there right in front of you so I think that is an effect in the transfer of media.
“…the second question I usually get is why isn’t this Jasper Jones’s story but it has never occurred to me to preference that.”
Perkins also spoke about her relationship with the author Craig Silvey, particularly about his close connection with this story.
“You respect the authors relationship with the work as in Craig thought up all the characters, all the dialogue. He dedicated years of his life for this story. As the adaptor of this work, I am conscious of his authority on it and not only should it be respected, but it should also be used. Which is why I said why don’t you come and hang out on set while we make the film…I want him to share in it…the book was based on his experience growing up as most great stories do, they come from the creators own experience.”
Jasper Jones is in Cinemas March 2nd.
Words by Maria Dunne.