MIFF 2015 – Gulpilil Shorts

Crocodile Dreaming (2007)

Director: Darlene Johnson
Starring: David Gulpilil, Tommy Lewis, Richard Birrinbirrin, Mary Dhapalany, Frances Djulibing, Jamie Gulpilil

An important ancestral stone gets thrown into a billabong leading to one of the local crocodiles being angered. This crocodile kills the daughter of the man who threw it. He offers to help, but the elders reject his offers and ask his brother (Gulpilil) to help even though he is away living with the white people and a famous actor.

The film is based on the dreaming of David Gulpilil’s mother. The director originally met the actor while working on Rabbit Proof fence and the story was originally meant to be about a troublesome crocodile and involve Steve Irwin, but David Gulpilil felt that story had already been made and he wanted to tell the story in his own words.

I enjoyed that there were spiritual and other worldly elements involved in this movie, but they were more touches to the film and helped emphasise when something had a special significance such as the fire trail left by the crocodile, the flaming billabong, the glowing stone and the crocodile attack in reverse.

The acting was also great in this even from the extras who are acting like you would expect them to act in such a situation. Having seen Dark Age before this movie, the dialog for this film is much better and not corny.

Mimi (2002)

Director: Warwick Thornton
Starring: David Gulpilil, Sophie Lee, Aaron Pedersen

A yuppie (Sophie Lee) buys some Aboriginal art just as investment not caring about the story behind it. This comes back to bite her when she opens the cupboard the next day to find the painting of the fish is only bones having been eaten. The next day she finds her apartment messed up and the other artwork is actually a Mimi. In panic she rings her friend and asks if she knows a “real Aboriginal”. When the man arrives (Aaron Pedersen) the sight of the Mimi scares the shit out of him, but he agrees to help.

Ringing his grandad (David Gulpilil), he first has to put up with a torrent of abuse about pretending to be white but does agree to help if he gets a new fridge. Opening his new fridge he finds the foul-mouthed Mimi waiting for him. He throws it in a cave and walks away to it throwing rocks at him.

There is very little comedy based around Inigenous issues in Australia as it is a delicate subject as any non-indigenous person who would make a joke would be accused of being racist quite likely as they are not in the situation and do not understand the issues involved.

There is room for parody from people who do understand in both the art scene in that Indigenous art is seen as a set things and only certain things would sell and also people who buy the art without knowing the story behind the art and only seeing it as an “investment”.

The Rainbow Serpent (1975)

Based on the book by Dick Roughsey, David Gulpilil narrates the story of creation involving the Rainbow Serpent. While there is not really any animation in this film, the painted backdrops and sound effects do tell the story quite well.
I remember seeing this when I was younger but do not know if it is still available online. Schools used to have actual film reels these films were on.

Showing Melbourne to Maningrida (1973)

Director: David Gulpilil

David Gulpilil films his trip to Melbourne in 1973. Melbourne sure looked boring back then and very white. Lots more older buildings that have since been knocked down also.

There are segments of the film that are not in English but they are few enough that subtitles are not really needed.
I liked the part where David Gulpilil went to buy a suit since everyone in the city was wearing one and he looked like a cowboy. There was a part where he goes into a music store (Allans?) and tries out a guitar also.

This film was made when David Gulpilil was studying film at university.

An excellent time capsule of the era and it is good to see David Gulpilil looking relaxed and natural in a role. I still have to see Charlie’s Country and Another Country.

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