Book Review: Gulpilil

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By Derek Rielly
ISBN: 9781760784973
Copy coutesy of Pan Macmillan Australia

Derek Rielly has sensitively detailed the life of a Yolngu man, David Gulpilil from early years until his last days living with terminal cancer. Gulpilil spent a traditional childhood living in native grounds of North East Arnhem land.


As a  tracker, ceremonial dancer and actor Gulpilil became famous with films such as Walkabout, Storm Boy, The Last Wave , Ten Canoes, Rabbit Proof Fence. He has become an indigenous icon, travelling both nationally and internationally as a creative inspiration.

Derek Rielly has given expression to the innermost soul of this man the world has regarded with great respect and interest. Humanising Gulpilil with many illustrations of ordinary life, Derek has managed to create a living environment wherein the reader can almost hear Gulpilil speaking and breathing.

The reader feels privileged to have private access to the everyday simple life, the hardship, pain, and illness which David Gulpilil endures on a daily basis. Even a guided tour of the little home in Murray Bridge, intimate knowledge of Mary, the wonderful friend, and carer who is devoting her life to ease Gulpilil’s burdens are all so skillfully presented.

The cover of this book is very striking and captures so dramatically the beauty of David Gulpilil. Photo inserts within the book are exquisitely presented and tell a story of their own. The  photographer Richard Freeman and book designer Daniel New deserve recognition for their efforts.

A moving statement made by Gulpilil is ‘Never forget me”. Derek Rielly has definitely provided a solid ground for such remembrance with an authentic portrayal of the beautiful soul behind the charismatic screen images we have come to associate with this man.

This exceptional book will be an excellent gift for those who love Gulpilil.

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