One of the great presences in Australian film, David Gulpilil blazed a trail for Aboriginal representation on screen – from breakout hits Walkabout and Crocodile Dundee to more recent films that blasted away the stereotypes.
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.
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.
The first of the 2021/22 Menzies Screenings is already under our belt – a timely, pre-COP26 screening of Nic Wrathall’s vital documentary Undermined: Tales from the Kimberley (2018) in October – and we have two more brilliant films coming up to round out 2021.
The 2021/22 Menzies Screening series comprises three screenings that once again speak to the Menzies Australia Institute’s ongoing theme of ‘Bearing Witness’. From films focusing on issues of vital importance to 21st century Australia, to explorations of its history, and personal journeys of discovery, this series offers a unique range of perspectives on the contemporary nation.
In ‘Bearing Witness’ to the contemporary moment, this screening series – and the accompanying Q&A sessions – offer a chance to re-evaluate our approaches to narratives of historical and contemporary importance to Australia and its place in the world.
Coronavirus has somehow allowed me to avoid conference presentations for over a year now, whilst also opening up the opportunity to attend online versions of conferences I’ve never been able to attend in person (such as the SSAAANZ conference back in December).
The theme of this year’s online BAFTSS conference – ‘time and the body’ – got me pondering ‘bodies’ in Australian cinema, and how the body politic of national cinema has shifted since the film revival of the 1970s. The result is a ten minute video essay entitled David Gulpilil, settler cinema, and the Indigenous body, below, which is really just a sketch towards some recent thinking about Australia’s settler cinema/s, and the potential problems of absorbing Indigenous cinema (and Indigenous bodies) within a national-cultural framework that still actively excludes (or harms) First Nations communities and individuals.
At this year’s conference – hosted by the University of Southampton – I’ll be discussing the video essay, and some of these ideas, in Session F, Panel 1 – ‘Postcoloniality and Indigeneity’ – on Thursday April 8, alongside my fellow panellists Patrick Adamson and Paul Janman.
Further information on this year’s BAFTSS conference (April 7-9), including registration details, can be found on the association’s website.
UPDATE 12/05/2020: For obvious reasons, this year’s Menzies Screenings were all cancelled, and the series postponed. All things going well, I hope to be able to present an extended version of this themed screening series at the Menzies Australia Institute in 2020/21.
Delayed slightly by a hefty first term workload (and two bouts of UCU strike action), I’m pleased to announce that the Menzies Screening Series is returning to the Menzies Australia Institute at King’s College London for a trio of events in early 2020.