‘Waterstreet’ is a feature length documentary exploring the history and evolution of Australian culture and identity, through the rise and fall of one of Australia’s most prominent legal figures, Charles Waterstreet.
Five years in the making, the documentary captures in often shockingly intimate and confronting detail, Waterstreet’s decline from his place as one of Australia's most recognisable, celebrated and successful criminal barristers, precipitated by allegations of improper conduct, bankruptcy and the inevitable toll of a life lived to excess - and without consequence.
Through the exploration of Waterstreet's life and meteoric rise to prominence, the film also examines and investigates the systems, structures and characteristics that make up our unique Australian history and the fast-changing social and political climate of recent years, with the intention of examining who we are, where came from and where we are going.
Waterstreet's journey begins as the eldest child of a staunchly Catholic family growing up in post-war regional Australia in the 1950s.
A family of publicans, the young Waterstreet would spend his formative years surrounded by misfits, drunks and outcasts, bearing the lifelong scars of an absent and fiercely alcoholic mother at a time where ‘mental health’ was a phrase confined to the halls of overcrowded sanatoriums.
Blessed with a natural intellect, wit and charm that would propel his eventual pilgrimage to Sydney, he quickly became one of Australia’s rising legal stars and part of the ‘bourgeoise bohemian brethren’ of artists, entertainers and intellectuals that were considered the custodians of art and culture in the 70s and 80s.
‘At the height of his professional career, Waterstreet battled addiction in all its forms - alcohol, drugs, sex and any vice that he could lay his hands on, all the while fighting and often winning the unwinnable cases that captured the nation’s attention, cementing his reputation as a resourceful ‘Larrikin of Law’.
It was a fast-living heady life of sex, drugs and excess that culminated in his immortalisation as the inspiration for the fictional barrister Cleaver Green, on ABC TVs, ‘Rake’.
Further notoriety would follow when his portrait won the coveted Archibald Prize.
But success would be short-lived, as allegations of improper conduct resulted in him being tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, swept up in the scrutiny of the newly-mobilised #metoo movement which would prove to be the beginning of his professional downfall.
A high-profile bankruptcy, unwanted publicity and shame soon followed.
Suddenly, a life lived on the edge would come crashing down around him leaving him broke, unemployed, estranged from his friends and family, his future and very survival, uncertain.
The documentary itself comprises of raw, intimate and often confronting material, including uncensored interviews with Waterstreet himself, complemented by musings by the heavy-hitters of both the legal, social and entertainment circles that enrich his story and personify this specific perspective in Australian psyche.
These interviews are accompanied by unique and captivating archival footage and observational, fly-on-the-wall style vignettes that capture the absurd and often shocking moments of a life in decline.
After five years of self-funded development, Canvas Film are seeking to crowd fund $50,000 toward completing a rough cut of the Waterstreet Documentary.
The rough cut will allow Canvas Film to screen the documentary to distributors and for submission to film festivals.
All donations are 100% tax-deductible and will be used towards the completion of the film.
Donations can me made through The Documentary Australia Foundation project page.