Friday, January 8, 2010

David Gulpilil

I think David Gulpilil is an Aboriginal Actor...the one who has been in a bunch of movies. I might be wrong though.

Was he in Crocodile Dundee? Maybe Storm Boy?

I'm seeing his photo on Google as I search for Lord Wiki. He's the old man in Australia (the movie). I'm amused because I was being sarcastic to myself, thinking he's pretty much the Aboriginal actor they use for EVERYTHING, and he's probably even been in Australia.

And I turned out to be right.

Oh! He was in Walkabout too! I haven't seen that, but I read the book. Did he play the young boy? That would be weird that he aged so much in thirty years. Maybe he's not that old, and he just looked old in Australia.

Well, I got his age right here. He was born on July 1, 1953. He's fifty-six. No, that's not very old.

Gulpilil was born in the Northern Territory, in the Arnhem Land region. It's in the north-eastern part of the territory, and includes Kakadu National Park.

Gulpilil's people are called Yolngu. Lord Wiki actually seems to have a lot to say about them. I'm gonna read.....

They have a system of law called Madayin.

They have something called avoidance-relationships. I think I've read about this before. In this, people are supposed to respect, but keep a distant from certain relatives. The ones Lord Wiki names are son-in-law to mother-in-law and sister to brother. Although the sister to brother avoidance doesn't begin until after initiation. I wonder what the reasoning is behind that. Incest? I think it would be a little sad not to be able to talk to one's brother or sister anymore. I'm not sure the in-law avoidance would cause too much hardship.

Here's a whole Yolngu website. I'm going to read that.

They say their culture is still going strong. They've been able to maintain it. That's good!

The website says that both men and woman have religious ceremonies and duties specific to their gender.

You know, it kind of reminds me of Judaism. The Madayin makes me think of the Torah, and in Judaism there are male and female roles. For example, men are traditionally the ones who pray with the Tefilin. Women traditionally light the candles on Shabbat.

Lord Wiki says there's a famous Yolngu music group. Yothu Yindi. That sounds familar to me. I've probably seen it before. Here's one of their videos.

I should probably get back to Gulpilil.

When Gulipilil was a child, he could do tracking, hunting, and all that fun stuff. His childhood didn't have much European influence.

Gulpilil attended a school in an area of Arnhem Land called Maningrida. It was a mission school. That kind of contradicts the bit about him not having much European influence. Although maybe the schooling didn't occur until his later childhood years. And/or maybe the school, despite being a mission, didn't push white culture on children.

I guess the Yolngu people are further divided into tribal groups. That was probably on the Yolngu website, but I missed it. I did see the bit about skin groups and stuff like that. Maybe that's what Lord Wiki is referring to. Gulpilil's group was Mandhalpuyngu. He was initiated into that group when he was the right age. I wonder at what age that is.

I'm not finding the answer to that question, but I did find that there's a movie about the initiation. It's called Yolngu Boy. It came out in 2001.

Gulpilil's totem animal is the Eagle.

As a child, he knew several tribal languages. After he was in a movie, he learned English. I guess that would be Walkabout.

Gulpilil was discovered by a British filmmaker named Nicolas Roeg, who liked Gulpilil's tribal dancing. He put Gulpilil in his movie, Walkabout. Lord Wiki says Gulpilil soon became a celebrity.

I'm going to move over to IMDb in a few minutes to get the filmography stuff. Before that, I'll just see what other goodies Lord Wiki can provide.

Besides film acting, Gulpilil is an excellent tribal dancer and storyteller. Yeah, not surprising. As I've said before, most artists are multi-talented. I wonder if there's a connection between dancing and storytelling. I'm pretty awful at both of them.

Lord Wiki says Gulpilil is not paid what he should be paid for movies. He gets a low salary. That sadly doesn't surprise me too much.

There's some controversial stuff.

In July 2006, he had a fight with a friend about drinking. Gulpilil was drinking and his friend didn't like that. Apparently, his house had a no-alcohol rule. During the fight, his friend armed himself with a totem pole and garden hoe. Gulpilil, in return, picked up a machete. Yikes. No one was hurt...thankfully! Gulpilil was charged with carrying a weapon. But later the charges were dropped. The defense was that he is an artist and uses the machete for carving stuff.

In 2007, Gulpilil got into trouble for domestic violence. Again, this involved drinking.

I'd venture to say that Gulpilil might be better off if he gave up alcohol. There are so many other great drinks out there....Cherry Coke, orange juice, Guava juice, chocolate milk, Fairy Floss Flavored Frappes.... I had the latter on our road trip. Well, Jack had it, and I had a few sips. It was SO yummy. Of course, in America they call it Cotton Candy. I love cotton candy flavored stuff. I'm very childish that way.

The ABC had a documentary about Gulpilil in 2003 called Gulpilil: One Red Blood. In the program he talks about how we are all of red blood. We are all the same. True...maybe.... UNLESS there are reptilian aliens among us who have green blood.

Now onto IMDb.

As I mentioned before, Walkabout came out in 1971. Here's a scene from the movie. I watched this before for some reason....for some other post, probably. I don't know why. It's a great example of ethnocentricism. The white children seem to have intolerance for the idea that some people don't know English.

In 1972 and 1973, Gulpilil did four episodes of a TV show called Boney. It looks like, in each episode, he played a different character. The show was seen as somewhat controversial because a white person was used to play the half-Aboriginal title character. I can see how that might be offensive. On the other hand, once you get into mixed races, I think people, from different heritages, look somewhat similar. I told Jack last night that he sort of looks Aboriginal. If a casting director discovered him, Jack could probably play a variety of ethnicities. I'm not sure whether the actor, in Boney, had some type of mixed heritage himself. IMDb says he's from New Zealand. Maybe he has some Maori blood somewhere down the line.

Here's a short video of the show.

In 1976, Gulpilil played the didgeridoo for a movie called Mad Dog Morgan. That's an Australian movie starring the American actor, Dennis Hopper. Hopper played a bushranger.

The trivia page says that Gulpilil went walkabout to to ask the trees about Hopper. The trees said that Hopper was crazy. I wish I could do that....go ask the trees about people in my life. Hello, tree. Can I trust this person? Yes or no. Do they really like me, or are they just using me for some reason?

After filming, Hopper went to visit Dan Morgan's gave. He was drunk, and got in trouble by the Victorian police. They sent him right back to Hollywood.

Here's a trailer for the film.

Gulpilil also did a few guest TV appearances in 1976. I'm not going to go into those because they were one-time appearances. This was also the year though that he did Storm Boy. Gulpilil played Fingerboy. He was nominated for an AFI award, but lost to an actor from something called The Fourth Wish.

Here's a scene from Storm Boy.

In 1977, Gulpilil was in Peter Weir's The Last Wave. I REALLY want to see that someday, maybe even more than Picnic at Hanging Rock. Here's the trailer. That sounds like the same music from the hanging rock movie.

Oh! Gulpilil played Bennelong in a TV mini-series called The Timeless Land. I have a thing for Bennelong. Maybe I feel some kind of connection because I never feel like I fully belong to any group. I feel half with one group and half with another. The alienation he encountered makes me all melancholy.

Well, I didn't find a trailer for the movie on YouTube, but I did end up finding another Yothu Yindi song called Timeless Land. I'm looking on Google right now. It seems Timeless Land is used fairly often to describe Australia. I didn't know that.

In 1983, Gulpilil was in an American I wouldn't quite expect him to be in. TheLink Right Stuff. That's the astronaut thing. I guess there's scenes that take place in Australia. This website has some photos of Gulpilil in the movie.

In 1986, Gulpilil was in Crocodile Dundee. I've seen that. Here's the American trailer. Gulpilil isn't in it.

Here's a scene with Gulpilil. I like the dancing scenes. The camera lens joke was a bit too forced. I understand what they're going for there. Oh! These people are SO different from us... so exotic. No, wait. They're not so different after all. He's not worried that my camera will steal his soul. I just needed to take off the lens cap. But in reality, someone wouldn't say, You can't take my picture. They'd more likely say something sarcastic like Uh, do you think maybe it would help to take the lens cap off? OR they might laugh as the person tries to take the photo and sees only darkness.

In 1987, Gulpilil was in one of my favorite types of movies....animal horror! I saw the last part of Snakes in the Plane last night. That was AWESOME!! The Gulpilil movie was called Dark Age. It's about a crocodile. IMDb says the movie was filmed in Australia, yet it's hard to find in Australia....something to do with distribution issues. Here's a trailer. It looks fun. This website has more information about the plot. The trailer looks like the blame for the whole mess lies with the Aborigines. They won't allow the croc to be killed because it's their sacred animal. But the website says it's a bit of an animal rights type message. The good white guy along with the Aborigines wants to relocate the animal. The bad guy wants to kill it.

In 1989, Gulpilil did a TV movie called Naked Under Capricorn. It was based on a novel by Olaf Ruhen. I can't find much about it. Let's move onto something else.

In 1991, Gulpilil was in the Win Wenders film, Until the End of the World. I think this is the movie that Nick Cave was featured in....or he did music for it.

In 1996, Gulpilil was in Dead Heart with Bryan Brown and Ernie Dingo. His role might have been small. His character doesn't have a name. He's just Second Man in Desert. The first man in the desert is played by Billy Mcpherson.

In 2001, Gulpilil was in a movie called Serenades. I love the tagline. To whatever measure your heart aches today, to the same measure it will rejoice tomorrow. Obviously that's not true literally, but maybe (hopefully) it's true figuratively. The movie is about a girl in the late 19th century who is born to an Afghan father and Aboriginal mother. It looks kind of good.

In 2002, Gulpilil was in Rabbit Proof Fence. He played someone named Moodoo, and received a best supporter actor nomination from AFI.

That year, Gulpilil was also in The Tracker. It was written and directed by Rolf de Heer, who made Ten Canoes. Gulpilil would later be featured in that as well. For this movie, Gulpilil WON an AFI award. That's not all though. He also won best actor from the Cinamanila International Film Festival, Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards, and the Inside Film Awards. That's very impressive.

The movie is about four men searching for an Aboriginal man who has been accused of murdering a white person.

Here's a scene from the movie. Now that dialogue is impressive...much better than Crocodile Dundee.In 2005, Gulpilil was in the movie written by Nick Cave. The Proposition. I've talked about that movie before....not really up to talking about it again.

I'd rather learn about Ten Canoes. I've heard this is a good movie. Here's the trailer. It looks really good. I think it's different from most other movies about Aborigines because it's not about the relationship between Aborigines and white people. It takes place before the white people invaded the Northern Territory. Except for the narrator (Gulpilil!), the characters all speak an Aboriginal language.

The trivia part of IMDb says that the film title was inspired by a photograph that Gulpilil showed to the director, Rolf de Heer. The photo was of ten men in Arnhem land taken by an Anthropologist.

The trivia page also says the film participants had to worry about hungry crocodiles in the area. AND....the canoes in the film were made using original tribal methods.

The movie won an AFI for best film in 2006.

In 2008, Gulpilil was in Australia. I've actually seen parts of it. I have to admit it was a little less horrible than I expected. Never mind. I take that BACK. I just tried to look at the movie on IMDb, and my Firefox got all frozen. I blame Australia. I blame Nicole Kidman and Baz Luhrmann.

In the movie, Gulpilil plays King George. I'm guessing this is that old mystical man...the one that gives me goosebumps, but also makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Here's a scene. Link Someone was nice enough to film their TV set while the movie was playing. Jack and I used this trick to film him playing a video game.

Here's a fansite for Gulpilil. I think it's actually done by a California girl. In the biography page, it says, Gulpilil has struggled personally with alcoholism and depression, as have many other indigenous artists who departed from their traditional lifestyles to become public figures.

Unfortunately, I think that can apply to ANY human that becomes a public figure. If they're female, you can add eating disorder to the mix. I'm not trying to downplay the issue for Aborigines. And for them it might be even more of a challenge. I just know the celebrity life seems to lead to depression, alcoholism, and other damaging behaviors. Or it can be a faulty causation issue. Maybe talented people are more prone to self-destructive behavior.

The fansite has some valuable links. I'll follow some. A lot of the links are dead. I don't blame the webmaster. I know some of my links have died. It's sad when that happens.

Here's a link that's still alive. It's an interview with Peter Weir. The way he describes sounds a lot like Bennelong. Walkabout's director (Nicholas Roeg) could be our Arthur Phillip. Weir says, He's a tribal man, initiated in the tribal ways, found by Roeg at a very early age and put into an international movie. Roeg took him on publicity trips to Europe and the States. He has a foot in both cultures. It's an enormous strain on the man.

Here's a recent article about how directors sometimes discover some Aboriginal actor, and then exploit them. It says, Every so often, the spotlight is similarly thrust on an indigenous unknown, "discovered" in outback obscurity and feted as a film star. But some Aboriginal actors have felt exploited and displaced by instant fame.

The thing about fame is it RARELY lasts. Most famous people are going to become a has-been. If they don't have a life to fall back on, there going to be in trouble.

In the article, Gulpilil talks about how it's hard to get jobs. I think people become famous quickly, and they think the high points are going to last. They're on top of the world, and they wrongly imagine they're going to stay there.

I have these days sometime where I suddenly feel super popular. I'm getting so many emails I can't keep up. People are commenting on my blog. My Statcounter has super high numbers. I keep getting comments on my Facebook update. I feel like getting all excited. I'm popular now! I'm so loved! But I remind myself that tomorrow it will swing back in the different direction. The next day I usually feel invisible. No emails. No comments on my blog. I could fade into oblivion and hardly a soul would notice.

I can see how this all might happen more frequently for an Aboriginal actor. Most Australian TV and film is made up of white people. They don't provide many roles for an Aboriginal actor. Hopefully, that will change more and more as time goes by. Besides that, maybe ALL sudden celebrities should be gifted with some kind of support system. What's going to happen to Susan Boyle when someone comes along that's more interesting to us?

Remember how Keshia Knight Pulliam was showered with love? Then that little Raven kid came along...... Although I see on Google that Pulliam has been getting some work these past few years.

That's the hopeful part of the situation. The forgotten and ignored celebrity will sometimes find the adoration again. It happened to Gulpilil. It looks like his career is going well lately.

Here's an article about Gulpilil from the European Network for Indigenous Rights. I think I've encountered this site before. It says that it was Dennis Hopper, and another actor, are the ones who introduced Gulpilil to alcohol.

In the documentary made about Gulpilil, he's filmed getting stoned. He wanted that in the film, because he wanted to be honest about himself. I can respect that.

Gulpilil had a rough time in the 1990's. His film career wasn't going well. The article says this is because he wanted a million dollars for the Crocodile Dundee sequel. In the first movie he had been paid only ten thousand dollars. I wonder how much the white actors got for equal roles. I mean I imagine that Paul Hogan would rightfully get much more. He was the main star. But what about actors who had roles more equivalent to what Gulpilil had? From what I read, the executives got a lot of money. It could have been a case of them being greedy, and not wanting to pay the actors enough. I don't know.

I was just doing more Google searching, and came across something I hadn't learned before. Gulpilil's son is in Ten Canoes. It looks like he has some problems with alcohol as well.

Here's a video of David Gulpilil dancing. It's pretty cool. I think I shall end with that.

Edited to Add (1/14/14) For anyone who is interested, The Marshall Arts Gallery in Adelaide has paintings by Gulpilil.   Well, I'm guessing if you managed to read this whole post, you probably ARE interested.  


  1. thnx for the info im doin a report bout david and this really helps thnx!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

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  3. Maddi,


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