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Gulpilil: One Red Blood (2002)



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A portrait of a unique and fascinating Australian Actor - David Gulpilil


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2002 (Australia)  »

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Gulpilil  »

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References Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) See more »

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Fascinating and fun look at a phenomenal career
13 December 2004 | by (Boston) – See all my reviews

David Gulpilil is the quintessential Australian Aboriginal actor, and the first actual Aboriginal to play a role in a movie. He also was instrumental in advising Australian filmmakers on authentic Aboriginal customs, language, and folklore. It was through him that the depiction of Aboriginals in Australian films went from being stereotypes played by white actors in black face to truly authentic depictions.

From his humble roots as an aboriginal dancer at a tourist attraction, Gulpilil's innate skill was recognized -- his traditional dancing techniques were as refined and athletic as any Ballet star, but it was his charm and personality that stood out above all, and young Australian film director Nicolas Roeg knew that Gulpilil would be perfect in his 1971 film, "Walkabout". What Roeg didn't realize was that Gulpilil would not just make the aboriginal character in the film authentic, but he would go on to start a revolution in Australia's film industry.

David Gulpilil brought so much authentic aboriginal motifs to his role in Walkabout, that no white actors in black face would ever be seen again portraying Aboriginals. From now on, only Aboriginal actors and actresses would portray Aboriginals in Australian films. Not only did he open the door to Aboriginal actors, but he also made the film industry conscious of their portrayals of Aboriginals in film. From that point on, the language, customs, dances, and music of Aboriginal people would be portrayed as they really are, as opposed to how white settlers imagined them.

What makes this film fascinating, apart from all the archival footage, and interviews with actors and directors whose pleasure it was to work with David, is the look at his life as it is now. Gulpilil still lives in the Bush, hundreds of miles from any roads, cities, or hospitals. He swims across alligator-infested waters to get to the nearest airport, and he lives in a shack that he built with his own hands. He gave all of his money to his tribe, and is content to live a traditional existence of hunting and gathering -- much like many of the characters he portrayed on film.

At first, we are shocked at the lifestyle of this legendary actor whose smiling face has charmed us in so many Aussie films -- We pity him, and start assuming that he was ripped off by his greedy agent. But as the film progresses, our pity turns into pure admiration -- he wasn't ripped off. He prefers to live this way, and has used his money to help out members of his family and tribe. We marvel at his family values, and how modern civilization has not spoiled him. He has and still lives an amazing life. Though already a legend, he may yet become more legendary before long.

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