Adelaide Festival

Adelaide Festival Review: My Name is Gulpilil

David Gulpilil is arguably one of Australia’s best actors and is responsible for bringing countless memorable characters to our screens over many decades.

A breathtakingly beautiful depiction of an extraordinary life
5

Presented by Vertigo Productions & David Gulpilil
Reviewed 12 March 2021

David Gulpilil is arguably one of Australia’s best actors and is responsible for bringing countless memorable characters to our screens over many decades. An ambassador for Aboriginal culture through film, David introduced audiences to traditional methods of hunting and dance at the young age of fourteen and went on to educate people through portraying characters that depicted the atrocities that Aboriginal people suffered at the hands of colonisation. My Name is Gulpilil is a film all about this iconic Yolŋu man whose larger-than-life persona shines through as he speaks his stories.

Director Molly Reynolds is to be commended for being able to work in a way that allowed for such a natural story telling progression with inserts of past movie clips and voice overs of times in David life where he has faced police charges and incarceration. David’s story flows like a celebration of a life lived but also resonates a sadness of a life that will be cut too short as a result of many contributing factors. One of which is the substance abuse of alcohol, tobacco and Ganja as David refers to it when he tells the story of Bob Marley giving him a smoke that wasn’t a smoke. Film life exposed David to all of these things and he states that at one point while filming in Darwin he was locked up every day.

One thing we learn from the film that hits you with the emotion stick is that Cancer doesn’t discriminate and watching the medication routine and listening to David speak of not being able to return home because he needs the Western medicine is something that hits hard. So many Aboriginal people around Australia are kept from returning to Country and being able to pass peacefully surrounded by family on their land due to the lack of healthcare available in remote communities. The emotion of this situation is shown at multiple points in the film and I felt myself coming to the realisation that this would be David’s last film and what a privilege it had been to watch it with him sitting only a few rows away.

What makes the film extra special is Mary, David’s carer who hands down is a poster child for what a carer should be. Her attentiveness and the banter between the two shine through in a way that provides another element to the film and leaves you thankful to know that David is in good hands until he joins the Ancestors and returns to his beloved waterhole.

Reviewed by Tara Forbes-Godfrey

Rating out of 5: 5

One Night Only – Season Ended

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