The recent death of Yolŋu actor, dancer, and icon David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu brought great sadness, as well as a flurry of celebration, as the world paid tribute to one of Australia’s finest talents. Early in 2021, I made a video essay for the BAFTSS Conference highlighting his centrality to the ‘body politic’ of post-1970s Australian cinema, which also doubled as a tribute of sorts.
Following this, I was invited to review Molly Reynolds’ bold, moving documentary collaboration with the great man, My Name is Gulpilil, for the ‘Off the Page’ section of the History Australia journal. The review has been available as a pre-print for a little while, but I’m pleased to say it has now got a place in Volume 18, Issue 4 of the journal, and is freely available via Open Access.
Here’s a taster of the review:
An aging man ambles down a dirt road, walking slowly away from the camera. He seems to be alone, until we realise he’s stalking an emu, which crosses to the other side of the track. He stops and turns to look at the camera, looks back to the emu, and begins walking towards us. The emu cautiously follows, and the pair walk up the hill in lockstep. This extraordinary cinematic moment provides an apt symbolic opening for Molly Reynolds’ documentary portrait of one of Australia’s finest actors, David Gulpilil. Its power, however, is immediately undercut by the subsequent image of the same man hooked up to medical equipment, receiving treatment for his now various ailments.Stephen Morgan (2021) My Name is Gulpilil: a powerful and tender portrait of an Australian performer, History Australia, 18:4, 870-871, DOI: 10.1080/14490854.2021.1996251
I’m also pleased to say that there may well be other chances to celebrate Gulpilil’s life and career in the UK during 2022, so watch this space!