My Name is Gulpilil earns an ovation for Murray Bridge's resident film star
Actor David Gulpilil has attended a premiere of the film about his life in the town which has become his home during a battle with cancer.
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An old man huddles into a blanket, softly spoken, breathing slightly, eyes straying towards his carer.
Yet a few minutes later, helped to his feet, there he is: David Gulpilil, the “greatest dancer in the world” in his own words, actor of international renown, accepting applause in a black three-piece suit.
The man, his life and achievements were celebrated at the Cameo Cinema on Tuesday night in Murray Bridge.
A full house of about 160 people gave him two standing ovations after a screening of My Name is Gulpilil, the movie which fulfils a promise to tell his story, his way.
The Rotary Club of Mobilong accepted an invitation from the actor to host the event in the city where he came to live with his carer, Mary Hood, in 2016.
“I drove down from the Northern Territory, came up here and see my friends, visit Mary – then I was broken down,” he said.
“I didn’t return back again.”
A raffle was held to raise funds for the oncology ward at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, where Gulpilil has been receiving treatment for lung cancer.
With support from his friends, he gave the audience a brief introduction to the film.
“This movie you're going to see about me, it’s a story about me,” he said.
What followed over 101 minutes was a contemplation of remembering and being remembered; of the cheeky, sprightly young man now inhabiting a worn-out body; and of a life lived in two worlds: in the western world and on country, back in Arnhem Land, where Gulpilil grew up and where he promised his spirit would someday return.
One of those two worlds had introduced him to the Queen and to world-famous celebrities, the film noted, but also to the tobacco and ganja that would come for his health later in life.
The film also reflected on his acting – or, in his eyes, his simply being.
“I don’t have to jump in and act,” he said at one point.
“I just stand there and the camera sees me.”
He had become famous by himself, through his culture, he said.
Numerous were the shots of man and country: in a field, on a dirt road, at recognisable locations around Murray Bridge.
“I was going to have a good time and a lot of work,” Gulpilil said of his move to the Murraylands.
“But not now.”
His battle featured prominently throughout the film, despite the fact that its star managed to outlive its working title: The Life and Death of David Gulpilil.
The audience rose to its feet as the credits rolled and the lights came up.
Patiently Gulpilil posed for photographs and offered a word to his fans in the foyer afterwards.
The Cameo Cinema’s owners said he was the most famous star ever to have visited, surpassing World Safari documentary maker Alby Mangels.
My Name is Gulpilil will screen again at the cinema next Tuesday night, then at matinee screenings on May 1 and 2.
More information: www.cameocinema.com.au.
Disclosure: The author attended the screening as a guest of the Rotary Club of Mobilong and Cameo Cinema.
I hope you are staying strong. I’m sure glad you share your story, it has made an impact on me. In spirit on the land forever. I do hope I get to meet you. I will never forget your name, Gulpilil. With love and much respect,
I hope you are coping with your dialysis and that lovely lady is well as well and that you are getting on well together.
Murray Bridge is a nice place. My friend Peter had a horse race at the new track last week it came sixth in a field of twelve.
I went up there earlier this year to see another of his horses. I went early to have a look around the place it has a good feel.
My wife Jackie and I did a trip to the Territory a few years ago flew over Kakadu
Saw the big Crocks lots of water. Had a swim in The highland clear water.
I met you for a brief moment in time when we were both much younger. At the Crows Nest Hotel in Crows Nest Sydney. Lots of Add people ,record and maybe movie officers around there. So i guess you were working. That brief meeting has remained as clear as a Bell in my mind for all this time.
I learned to write letters at All Hallows Bording school in Bathurst. The Dominican Nuns they were a careing lot. I'm sticking to there formulae I was in fourth class.
I moved to Adelaide from Willoughby in 1988 the Bicentennial year. I was in a cycle of drugs and alcohol. The move was very successful. Have a step son Keith 37
A son Rhys 32 who has a wife Abby and Daughter Ruby she actually rules the universe at 18months. And Manchester terrier 6months she keeps terrifying the chooks.
As Roy Slaven would say love your work David you are having an amazing life.
I hope we meet another time.
With love and respect
Michael Grant Crampton.