Celebrating Gulpilil: Chichester International Film Festival

The recent death of Yolŋu actor and dancer David Gulpilil was an immeasurable loss for Australian and international cinema. From the revival of feature production in the 1970s, right up to the recent rise of Indigenous cinema, his was a constant yet mercurial presence, a man whose storytelling was unparalleled and whose face could light up any screen.

Although he’ll never be forgotten in Australia, it is great to see Gulpilil’s legacy being celebrated globally, from the many obituaries in international publications, to the roll-out of Molly Reynolds’ tender documentary portrait My Name is Gulpilil (which I recently reviewed for History Australia), through to Criterion’s current celebration of his work on their North American streaming service. Thankfully, plans are also afoot to celebrate his legacy here in the UK, starting with a mini-retrospective at this month’s Chichester International Film Festival.

This special strand, David Gulpilil – Remembered, offers a chance for audiences to see four key performances from across his career, with the better known Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg, 1971) and Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce, 2002), taking their place alongside an extremely rare UK screening of his first collaboration with Dutch-Australian filmmaker Rolf de Heer, The Tracker (2002), as well as perhaps the crowning achievement of his career, and his final feature collab with de Heer, Charlie’s Country (2013).

CIFF22 is already underway, but the Gulpilil strand strand kicks off on August 20, with the UK premiere of My Name is Gulpilil (2021), which is preceded by my illustrated talk, Walking with Gulpilil: A Journey Through 50 Years of Australian Cinema. Designed as a general introduction to (and celebration of) Gulpilil’s life and work, here’s an indication of what it contains:

In a career spanning five decades, Yolŋu dancer and actor David Gulpilil carved out a unique place in Australian cinema and culture. His recent death, at the age of 68, brought to an end a miraculous but tumultuous career, and a life dedicated to taking his culture to the world.

As part of Chichester International Film Festival’s retrospective, this illustrated talk from Australian cinema expert Dr Stephen Morgan will trace Gulpilil’s legacy through 50 years of Australian cinema, from the reinvigoration of feature filmmaking in the 1970s, to the flourishing of Indigenous work in recent years. Featuring rare images, rarely seen footage and clips from key films from across Gulpilil’s career, this event will celebrate the life and work of one of Australia’s finest actors.

Tickets for the Chichester International Film Festival are now on sale, but don’t worry if you can’t make it to West Sussex, as there will be other chances to celebrate Gulpilil, including another retrospective (and a repeat of my illustrated talk) at the London Australian Film Festival, which is currently being planned for November 2022.

As always, watch this space!

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