How to write the book presents a challenge. De Heer tells the author that getting a dozen words out of Gulpilil will be difficult, so he determines to talk to actors, directors, friends and others who know him well to build the picture of why he matters ‘and still matters’.
Source: Gulpilil Review by Bernard Whimpress
Those who shared their insight include film critic Margaret Pomeranz; artists George Gittoes and Craig Ruddy (who won the Archibald, controversially, with a portrait of Gulpilil in 2004 that some claimed was a drawing, not a painting); directors Philippe Mora (Mad Dog Morgan) and Phillip Noyce (Rabbit-Proof Fence); and actors Damon Gameau, Gary Sweet, Jack Thompson and Paul Hogan.
The style of a different perspective each chapter reminded me in part of the old TV show This Is Your Life,
In which the presenter surprises celebrity guests with a show documenting their lives, with audience participation from their friends and family.
Source: This Is Your Life (Australian TV series)) by Wikipedia
While intermingled throughout the conversations, Rielly fills out elements of Gulpilil’s life. However, what was interesting that there were few Indigenous voices in the book. As Stephen Bennetts explains, Gulpilil’s story is complicated:
Fêted by European society, like Bennelong and Namatjira before him, Gulpilil represents for white Australians the embodiment of traditional Aboriginal culture. Yet Trudgen claims that after being discovered as a young man by British filmmaker Nicolas Roeg for the 1971 film Walkabout, Gulpilil lost connection with his traditional culture ‘because it just wasn’t part of his practice when he was out with Europeans talking with them all the time. The great disappointment of Gulpilil’s parents was his lack of traditional knowledge.’
Source: Stephen Bennetts reviews ‘Gulpilil’ by Derek Rielly by Stephen Bennetts
Overall, Terry Rielly’s Gulpilil provides an insight into some of the challenges associated with traversing two cultures. Although Gulpilil may have been five stars on the screen, life was not so simple away from the camera.