In the dead of night during the scorching summer of 1969, Charlie is startled when he is woken by local mixed-race outcast Jasper Jones outside his window. Jasper leads him deep into the forest and shows him something that will change his life forever, setting them both on a dangerous journey to solve a mystery that will consume the entire community.
In an isolated town where secrecy, gossip and tragedy overwhelm the landscape, Charlie faces family breakdown, finds his first love, and discovers what it means be truly courageous.
“Our story came to us courtesy of writer Craig Silvey, whose involvement was a little unusual,” says director Rachel Perkins (Bran Nue Dae, Redfern Now). “Not only did he write the novel and the shooting script, he then turned up to set every day to support the creative process to its conclusion. Being an Aussie movie tight on money, he had to bunk down in my accommodation to do so. Having the writer literally in the next room and equally enthusiastic to endlessly dissect the film was the greatest asset.”
“In considering our approach to adapting the novel Jasper Jones, which traverses the transformation from child to adult, we returned to classics like Stand By Me for inspiration. In that tradition our aim was to tell a classic tale, rather than reinvent cinema. With so many films that overdress in style or violence to distract from their shortfall in character and story, we opted for the old school approach; a great story and fine actors to give it life.”
The film features an outstanding cast including Toni Collette, Kevin Long, Aaron McGrath, Levi Miller, Angourie Rice, Hugo Weaving, and Dan Wyllie. Toni Collette rescheduled her Hollywood commitments to come back home, because like thousands of others, she loved the book. “Witnessing her work on set remains one of the great pleasures of my career,” said Perkins. “The enthusiasm for the story of Jasper Jones, built great momentum for our work. It showed me how people stories mean things to people and how they will rally around a story they love.”
Jasper Jones was shot over a six-week period in Western Australia. Specifically, in the south-west town of Pemberton; a small town, in the heart of a forest, with a population of just over 1,000 persons. Choosing Pemberton to portray the fictional town of Corrigan was an easy choice for the filmmakers. The town was built at the peak of the timber industry in the south-west region of Western Australia.
The area is lush and green and although different to the hot desert town described in Silvey’s novel, it offered the perfect package – an authentic period setting with a warm and generous spirit from the locals. Since its construction, the town has remained almost untouched. Its original, distinct and unique timber houses, built between the 1920’s and the 1950’s still stand today, providing warm homes for the townsfolk.
“It’s a town,” says producer Vincent Sheehan, “that, for a number of streets, looks exactly as it was in the 1960’s. It’s quite magical. It’s a very particular, almost Twain-esque setting, completely different to the rest of Australia in that time period. It was perfect for the setting of Jasper Jones.”
A best-selling Australian novel by Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones has received broad critical acclaim and commercial success including being shortlisted for the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2011 and shortlisted for the Australian Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2010.
A popular novel choice for English students in Years 9-11, in recent years, the novel was prescribed reading in NSW for Year 12 students, but is now a common choice for Year 11. In WA, the novel is a selected text for General English. The novel has also been adapted into a play, performed by the Belvoir Theatre in NSW and the Melbourne theatre company.
Jasper Jones is screening nationally. For more information, visit: www.jasperjonesfilm.com for details.
Image: Aaron McGrath as Jasper Jones and Levi Miller as Charlie Bucktin – courtesy of Madman Entertainment ©