Homelessness an Olympic issue movingly captured in challenging short film

A Brisbane filmmaker’s new short film is already sparking conversations and challenging perceptions about homelessness in the Olympic city.

Feb 01, 2024, updated Feb 01, 2024
Bryan Probets portrays a homeless man in the short film Charlie, written and directed by Mel Poole. Photo: Joshua Gannon

Bryan Probets portrays a homeless man in the short film Charlie, written and directed by Mel Poole. Photo: Joshua Gannon

Brisbane is an Olympic city, so there’s a lot to celebrate, but there’s also a darker side to the town some call Bris Vegas.

Homelessness is a burgeoning problem evident to all of us and there are people on the frontline helping those who are, in many cases, victims of circumstance.

Inspired by true accounts, the short film Charlie, written and directed by local filmmaker Mel Poole of 18 Degrees Films, tells the story of a man who spent many years homeless on the streets of Brisbane. Charlie’s self-loathing and inability to connect with the world is manifested in his reluctance to accept help.

The only kindness he takes is the daily serving of soup from a local soup van.

The one in the film is Eddie’s Van, an initiative of St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace. The van – affectionately named after Edmund Rice, Roman Catholic missionary and educationalist, founder of the Congregation of Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers – has been operating for about two decades catering for the homeless community.

There’s an interesting interview about the real story that inspired Charlie on the filmmaker’s website. The interview is with Anthony Ryan, co-founder of Eddie’s Van and currently CEO of the Brisbane Economic Development Agency. It’s well worth your time to watch the interview online.

In the film a volunteer, Angie (Brittani Clark), tries to connect with Charlie (Bryan Probets) to no avail, and he continues to go about his solitary existence. But when a street kid named Eddie (Finn Treacy) starts to follow Charlie in an attempt to find companionship, a near accident brings back horrific memories of Charlie’s past and gives us a window into how he ended up homeless.

Charlie finally bares his scars, confessing to Angie how his life was forever changed by a tragic accident.

It’s a powerful and poignant film and as Charlie recounts this painful memory he takes his first steps to self-forgiveness and recovery. It’s a film with a social conscience, which is refreshing, and it aims to change perceptions about the homeless and motivate people to help end this ever-increasing social issue.

As Charlie navigates his journey towards self-forgiveness and healing, audiences are invited to reflect on their own perceptions of homelessness and the importance of empathy in driving social change.

But there’s certainly nothing preachy about this. It’s not a lecture, it’s a story, a moving story, told simply and profoundly and beautifully shot. (Dan Macarthur is the film’s director of photography.) That may sound anomalous considering the subject but Poole manages to show us how a modern metropolis such as Brisbane can move forward leaving some people behind.

As beautiful as the Story Bridge lit up at night is, there is the other side of the story and what lies beneath. It’s the darkness and the people who lurk in the shadows, often forgotten, that feature here and I guess you could say it has something in common with the Netflix series Boy Swallows Universe in that regard.

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The cast is excellent and Probets is perfect as the star, if star is the right word. It’s a dowdy form of stardom this time around.

To say Probets is a great character actor is an understatement. He is just a great actor, full stop. Most recently we saw his ghostly presence on stage in shake and stir’s A Christmas Carol. Probets is a stalwart on stage and screen (there was that part in Pirates of the Caribbean) and he imbues Charlie with depth and empathy. Rising stars Finn Treacy and Brittani Clark add depth and authenticity to the narrative, leaving a lasting impact.

The dark tones and the night scenes accentuate the drama and loneliness of life on the edge of society in a bustling city such as Brisbane.

Charlie is poised to make its mark internationally through participation in film festivals in Australia and abroad. The film also aims to extend its impact beyond the screen by touring schools, community groups and workplaces, sparking conversations and challenging perceptions about homelessness. It was well received at a recent private screening in Brisbane.

18 Degrees Films has been producing film and commercials in Brisbane for 12 years, shooting feature films alongside commercials for leading brands including Coca Cola, Allianz, Flight Centre, AFL Australia and Wonderwhite Bread.

Mel Poole is the co-founder of 18 Degrees and as a director Poole’s last film Sock and Buskin clinched the Audience Award at the prestigious Academy Award-qualifying St Kilda Film Festival.

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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