David Gulpilil dancing on the set of Storm Boy. He is wearing body paint on his face and torso.
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/collection/hero_image04-2017/gulpilil_collection_hero3.jpg

David Gulpilil

David Gulpilil AM

Actor, dancer, storyteller, legend

David Gulpilil AM has forever changed the way Australian film represents Indigenous people and their cultural heritage.

A Yolngu man from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, he was a dancer, actor, singer, painter and storyteller. His first acting role – in Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout (1970) – began a career that spanned over 50 years.

He has acted in some of Australia's most iconic and successful films, including Storm Boy (Henri Safran, 1976), Crocodile Dundee (Peter Faiman, 1986), Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce, 2002) and Australia (Baz Luhrmann, 2008).

Gulpilil was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1987. He has won numerous awards including Best Actor – Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival for Charlie's Country (Rolf de Heer, 2013) and two Best Actor AACTA/AFI Awards, for The Tracker (Rolf de Heer, 2002) and Charlie's Country.

In this collection we see the breadth of Gulpilil's talent and many of the roles he's played. We also learn more about his life, cultural beliefs and Country.

WARNING: this collection contains names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Storm Boy - Fingerbone Bill dance
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1447284
Courtesy:
South Australian Film Corporation
Year:
Year

Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil) tells Storm Boy (Greg Rowe) a dreamtime legend about the pelican including a dance.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Rare footage of David Gulpilil dancing, 1979
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1635100
Courtesy:
Dr Gavin Gillman
Year:
Year

This exquisite home movie featuring David Gulpilil, David Bylanadii (Blanasi) on didjeridu, dancer Dick Plummer, and songman Djoli 'Jolly Lajwonga' Laiwanga was filmed in Hawaii in 1979.

The footage was shot on Super 8 film by CSIRO scientist Dr Gavin Gillman, who was spending a sabbatical at the University of Hawaii at the time. Gulpilil and his fellow performers were en route to a series of performances in Europe and performed at an Australia Day function on the lawn of the Australian Consular Residence in Honolulu on  29 January 1978. The footage was never screened publically.

The narration by Dr Gillman's wife Kay and the 'Australia Day 1979' intertitle at the beginning of the clip featuring a lei made of frangipanis sitting on a piece of paper (Gillman recalls he filmed it on their kitchen table) gives the movie a lovely homemade feel.

David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu AM was a Yolngu dancer, actor, singer, painter and storyteller from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. His first acting role – in Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout (1970) – began a career that spanned over 50 years.

He acted in some of Australia's most iconic and successful films, including Storm Boy (Henri Safran, 1976), Crocodile Dundee (Peter Faiman, 1986), Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce, 2002) and Australia (Baz Luhrmann, 2008).

Interestingly,Gulpilil talks about the origin of the traditional hair belt he wears at the end of this clip from Walkabout to Hollywood (Bill Leimbach, 1982). The belt is made of human hair woven into a string and is used by tribal elders for ceremony. In the clip Gulpilil sums it up poetically: 'inside here is all my peoples, all my relations, and your relations too'.

Notes by Beth Taylor

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
This is your life: David Gulpilil
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
28503
Year:
Year

In the concluding chapter of This Is Your Life: David Gulpilil, compere Roger Climpson asks Gulpilil what he really wants to accomplish in his life. Gulpilil answers:

I want to do something not only for me but I’m doing it for Australia and for my people and for ... our culture. But my culture - basically I’d like to thank for myself that I came to show it’s my life of my forefathers that it’s what I taught, what I learned. I want to share to the Western world and I’m not doing it for myself. I’m doing it for black and white to know better that we have culture and history still existent and I’ll keep trying.

Notes by Beth Taylor

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Mad Dog Morgan: 'I'm going to cross the river'
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
4505
Year:
Year

Morgan (Dennis Hopper) has been shot while stealing a horse. He is rescued by an outcast Aboriginal man, Billy (David Gulpilil), who nurses him back to health in the mountains. They decide to seek safety across the border in New South Wales.

Summary by Paul Byrnes.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Crocodile Dundee: 'You can't take my photograph'
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
272855
Courtesy:
Rimfire Films Pty Limited
Year:
Year

At a bush camp, Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski) is at first spooked by the quiet arrival of an Aboriginal man in face paint. Mick (Paul Hogan) introduces Neville (David Gulpilil), a 'real city-boy’, and then goes with him to a corroboree. Sue disregards Mick’s clear instruction not to follow, but she is shocked to discover he can sense her presence.

Summary by Paul Byrnes.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
'I keep my own culture' - David Gulpilil's early life
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
324832
Courtesy:
David Gulpilil
Year:
Year

In this oral history David Gulpilil talks about his background and his early life. In this excerpt he describes himself as a 'full-blood Australian Aboriginal and I come from nearly about three or four thousand miles up the north of Australia - Northern Territory and I'm a tribal man. I live there. Full-blood. I born there. My family live there - which our forefathers lived many years.' Gulpilil talks about how he was given the European name David at a welfare settlement school. Before that in mission school he'd been given the name Joe. 

This oral history was recorded without an interviewer and it's powerful to hear Gulpilil talk about himself in a stream of consciousness without answering an interviewer's questions. In this short extract he seamlessly interweaves different elements - talking about his country, his ancestors, how he got his European name, his dislike of western schooling and his love for his culture. With strength and pride he says 'you got your culture, I got my culture. Anyone got culture. I keep my own culture.'

This is a very engaging recording made relatively early in his career (eight years after his first on-screen role in Walkabout, 1970). His voice is recorded very cleanly which captures the clear and measured use of his words. His voice has a calming quality and you are made to feel that he is speaking directly to you. His powerful storytelling technique is a great example of the strong tradition of oral history in Australian Indigenous culture.

This oral history was broadcast on ABC Radio in Adelaide in 1978.

The cover image for is from 3 Dances Gulpilil, 1978, Film Australia Collection © NFSA.

Notes by Beth Taylor

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Two part production still of David Gulpilil. In the first photograph he sits on a rock looking at the camera and the second is a close-up of his face as he looks at the camera.
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/04-2017/charliescountry_1234930_0002_005.jpg
Charlie's Country - David Gulpilil
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1234930
Courtesy:
Vertigo Productions
Year:
Year

A production still of David Gulpilil in the title role of the Rolf de Heer film Charlie's Country (2014).

Notes by Beth Taylor

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
My Name is Gulpilil: trailer
Year:
Year

This is a trailer for the 2021 documentary My Name is Gulpilil (Molly Reynolds, Australia) about David Gulpilil's extraordinary life and career.

Gulpilil says 'I’m an actor, I’m a dancer, I’m a singer and also, a painter. This film is about me. This is my story of my story.'

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Storm Boy: 'You run like a blackfella!'
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1447284
Courtesy:
South Australian Film Corporation
Year:
Year

While his father takes a catch of fish to sell in town, Mike (Greg Rowe) discovers some illegal hunters shooting birds. An Aboriginal stranger, Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil), drives them away with a warning shot. Mike tried to hide but Bill asks him to come and see if the hunters hit anything. 

Summary by Paul Byrnes

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Walkabout: This is Australia
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
583907
Year:
Year

The brother and sister are dying of thirst, camped by a spring that has dried up while they were asleep. The boy (Lucien John) sees a figure on the horizon. He thinks it may be his father but it’s an Aboriginal hunter. The young woman (Jenny Agutter) is fearful after she blinks hard to make sure she is awake. The young black man (David Gulpilil) kills a large lizard to add to several that adorn his belt. He is surprised to see these white people out here, but he is about to leave them there when the boy pushes his sister to stop him. She tries to make him understand they need water, but fails. The boy is more direct and succeeds. The Aboriginal man laughs and shows them how to get water.

Summary by Paul Byrnes.

WARNING: This clip contains animal suffering or death
Storm Boy: 'Does this country belong to him?'
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1447284
Courtesy:
South Australian Film Corporation
Year:
Year

Mike (Greg Rowe) and his father (Peter Cummins) go to warn Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil) that trouble is brewing. Bill is not supposed to be living on a state reserve, and the ranger wants to talk to him. 

Summary by Paul Byrnes

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
3 Dances Gulpilil
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
42477
Year:
Year

Three dances of traditional Aboriginal dance performed by David Gulpilil. Made by Film Australia in 1978. Directed by David Roberts. The Emu and The Kangaroo are solo performances, while the third dance, The Fish, is a group dance performed with some people from Bamyili, in the Northern Territory. All three dances are accompanied by the didgeridoo and clap sticks. Kangaroo and Fish also feature vocal accompaniments. From the Film Australia Collection.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Walkabout To Hollywood: dance
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
548282
Courtesy:
Bill Leimbach
Year:
Year

David Gulpilil visits the Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre in Redfern and teaches dance to young Aboriginal people. He's a great teacher and the students have big smiles on their faces as they follow his moves. In voice-over Gulpilil says: 

The urban Aboriginal people lost their identity, lost their land, lost their tribe, lost their language, lost their everything that white men came and destroyed. [The way] Aboriginal people live is more natural. No tin lying down, no grog, no smoke, no clothes. We live with our Mother Earth. And fresh, just like animals living in the bush. The missionaries came and tried to change - make us Christian. You know, believe in Jesus Christ and believe in all those things ... but what about our culture? The missionaries never ever study it very slowly. They don't know nothing about the culture or languages or who we are ... What about the history of our peoples that you could teach your white children to understand - just like any other country.


In the conclusion of the clip voice-over narrator Robert Powell says 'David doesn't live in the past. He brings his traditions with him into new worlds.' 

Notes by Beth Taylor

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Walkabout To Hollywood: 'Human-being music'
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
548282
Courtesy:
Bill Leimbach
Year:
Year

David Gulpilil is on a trip to America to promote Walkabout and talk about a film he wants to make called Billy West and Lightning Thunderboy. In voice-over he says that he identifies with the American Indian people because 'Indian people is like my people. We have the same problem - that a white man came to the reservation - it's like the white man came to the reserve.'

He plays yidaki (didgeridoo) with Canadian Cree singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, who is set to co-star in his film, which was never made. She shows him different types of jewellery made by American Indian tribes and they share stories about their families. He also speaks with an American Indian man about problems his people share with Indigenous Australians and shows him a hair belt made out of the hair of his ancestors.

He says 'Inside here is all my people, all my relations, and your relations too'. It's very powerful that he can show the hair of his father, himself and his sisters all woven together. He gives the man a gift of a hair necklace saying it's from his people, 'the lightning thunder people'.

Notes by Beth Taylor

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Still Our Country: Our country
Courtesy:
Vertigo Productions
Year:
Year

An excerpt from the Still Our Country online installation - a poetic celebration of the contemporary Yolngu people of North East Arnhem Land, Australia. This excerpt has David Gulpilil speaking in voice-over about his country along with stills of his country in North East Arnhem Land.

He says: 'We're going now to my country. My mother country. This is my place. My country. My father's country. My grandfather country. My country. No one will take my land. I live in my land and land lives with me. We live together. This is my home. This land and me … together. I belong here.' 

Still Our Country documents the swiftly morphing lives of the Yolngu people of Ramingining in the Northern Territory. The online installation is built on fragments and parts presenting a carnival of contemporary ways, the sum of which makes for a bold declaration of identity and a hopeful promise of a future. The online installation and the accompanying documentary film, Another Country, are part of the Country suite of projects made by Molly Reynolds and Rolf de Heer about contemporary Aboriginal culture.

Charlie’s Country, a feature film starring David Gulpilil, was screened to critical acclaim at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and later in Australia. Gulpilil won a best actor award in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for his performance in the film. He also appears in the other projects in the Country suite as himself — a proud Yolngu man.

Notes by Beth Taylor

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
David Gulpilil stands pointing at something in the distance. The stick he uses to point has a dead goanna hanging off it. Next to him are two white school children.
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/04-2017/walkabout_lobbycard_363415.jpg
Walkabout lobbycard - David Gulpilil
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
363415
Year:
Year

This lobby card from Walkabout (1970, Nicolas Roeg, Australia) shows David Gulpilil in his first screen role standing between actors Jenny Agutter (who played 'young woman') and Lucien John ('the boy'). Gulpilil was 16 years old when the film was made and Agutter 17 years old.

Lobby cards are designed to promote the film and give an audience an idea of what to expect. In this case the card is meant to clearly show the contrast of cultures between the Aboriginal youth and the two English children against a landscape in which only the Aboriginal youth 'belongs' - though he seems prepared to help them survive.

The depiction of the white English children wearing school uniforms sharply contrasts with Gulpilil's character's bare torso, black skin and attendant spear and dead goanna. In their attire the two children are made to appear incongruous against the harsh landscape while Gulpilil's character appears completely at home. He has hunting tools, food and he points assuredly in the direction they are to take while the children squint warily into the distance. The gulf between the two cultures is clearly evident. This construction of the Aboriginal hunter as 'other' is central to the premise of the film and this lobby card effectively sums up this premise. The film's poster reads, ‘the aborigine and the girl, 30,000 years apart’.

Curator Liz McNiven writes, 'Walkabout may appear to recast the frame in challenging white sensibilities but by retaining a focus on the body it reinforces the colonial framework. In the 1970s white cultures perceived nakedness as a sign of primitivism and the use of clothing, to cover the body, as a sign of superiority. This white mythology stems back to the biblical story of Adam and Eve, foretelling the evils of the body and its unclothed desire.'

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Kookaburra call - David Gulpilil
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
324832
Year:
Year

David Gulpilil does an amazingly life-like kookaburra call and then tells a story about the kookaburra in this excerpt from an oral history from 1978. 

Gulpilil is famous for his acting and dancing. This clip shows Gulpilil's prowess as a storyteller - something which is also evident in his dance and acting roles. He tells a traditional story about the kookaburra which has been passed down to him through the generations. This piece is an example of Gulpilil's desire to share the culture of his people with a broad audience.

This oral history was recorded without an interviewer and has a stream of consciousness feel to it. His voice is recorded very cleanly which captures the clear and measured use of his words. It has a calming quality and you are made to feel that he is speaking directly to you, almost as if he is telling you a secret. It has the effect of drawing you in to his words and to the story he is telling.

This oral history was broadcast on ABC Radio in Adelaide in 1978.

To learn more about David Gulpilil visit his curated collection and portrait.

The cover image is from Napoleon, 1996 - Film Australia Collection © NFSA, Australian Film Finance Corporation Pty Limited, Herald Ace Inc, Furry Feature Films Pty Limited.

Notes by Beth Taylor

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Dramatically Black - Crocodile Dreaming: Swimming with the crocodile
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
712058
Year:
Year

Older brother Burrimmilla (David Gulpilil) introduces his younger brother, Charlie (Tom E Lewis), to his knowledge of the crocodile dreaming. After a crocodile rocks their tin boat, Burrimmilla and Charlie fall into the water and experience the crocodile in its own habitat. Having shared a cultural bonding experience they have a chance to overcome their personal differences. Summary by Liz McNiven.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
David Gulpilil searches for the escaped girls in a still from the film Rabbit-Proof Fence.
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/02-2017/533727.jpg
David Gulpilil as Moodoo
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
533727
Courtesy:
Phillip Noyce and Christine Olsen
Year:
Year

David Gulpilil as Moodoo the tracker, searching for the escaped girls in Rabbit-Proof Fence.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
David Gulpilil on the Mike Walsh Show - Episode 8197
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1244434
Courtesy:
Mike Walsh AM, OBE Hayden Productions
Year:
Year

David Gulpilil talks with Mike Walsh about missing Arnhem Land when he's in the city and the importance of passing down traditional dances to young people.

He offers to teach Mike Walsh the emu dance saying that it will take about one month.

Notes by Beth Taylor

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Gulpilil - One Red Blood: 'My father's country'
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
560179
Year:
Year

Footage of David, Robyn – David’s traditional law wife – and their children in Ramingining. Sweeping aerial views of the ever-widening river that David needs to cross to reach David’s father’s country. Archival footage of Aboriginal people in a mission with David’s voice-over narrating about the first time he saw a white person. Summary by Romaine Moreton.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Gulpilil - One Red Blood: Sharing culture and country
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
560179
Year:
Year

A clip from Mike Willesee’s The Hunting Party (1990) shows David Gulpilil and others in a swamp hunting for goanna. David is a Yolngu man of the Mandhalpuyngu, speech of the Djinba language. The group convince Willesee to enter the water on the premise of there being no crocodiles. Gulpilil in voice-over tells us that in fact, there was a crocodile present, and that Willesee was none the wiser. Present day, David shows us his impoverished living conditions. David talks to camera about sharing his culture and country with Australia and the rest of the world, and introduces the concept of 'one red blood’. Summary by Romaine Moreton.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
The Morning Star Painter: A family of artists
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
56884
Year:
Year

This short film narrated by David Gulpilil documents the production of a bark painting by the highly acclaimed artist Djiwul (Jack) Wunuwun in his homeland community of Gamedi near Maningrida in Arnhem Land. Using ochres, clay and charcoal as his paints, Jack Wunuwun sits and paints. His wife Margaret leaves the baby with Jack as she and the other women go off to collect pandanus leaves for weaving into baskets. The women also collect roots to create colour dyes. Summary by Liz McNiven.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
The Balanda and the Bark Canoes: An invitation
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
718565
Courtesy:
Vertigo Films
Year:
Year

Rolf de Heer talks about being invited by David Gulpilil to his country to make Ten Canoes (2006). Images of men stripping bark from a tree to make a canoe will eventually be incorporated in the film. Summary by Romaine Moreton. 

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
This is your life: David Gulpilil - Storm Boy
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
28503
Year:
Year

David Gulpilil is reunited with his co-stars from Storm Boy (1976), Greg Rowe, and Mr Percival the pelican. Rowe is asked by host Roger Climpson what he learnt from Gulpilil and Rowe says how natural he is. It's 'as if there's no cameras there'. Notes by Beth Taylor

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
This is your life: David Gulpilil - Jack Thompson
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
28503
Year:
Year

Jack Thompson, who worked with David Gulpilil on Mad Dog Morgan (Philippe Mora, Australia, 1976), pays tribute to him. He says 'As a man who has learnt from his own tribe and his own tribal ways to identify with the spirits of tree and with the spirits of animal, and a man who has learnt the corroboree which is after all the literature and art of your people, that you have brought all of that magic with you every time that you've worked with me on screen and I'm sure with everyone else. David, you are a great actor. Thank you.'

Notes by Beth Taylor

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Gulpilil - One Red Blood: Walkabout
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
560179
Year:
Year

After a screening of Walkabout (1971) in a cinema, David is speaking to fans at the cinema. Interviews with Justine Saunders, Gary Foley, Professor Marcia Langton and David Stratton give background information to both Indigenous cinema and David’s influence upon the genre. Summary by Romaine Moreton.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/uploads/2014/10/16/David_Gulpilil.jpg
David Gulpilil in Homicide
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
680937
Courtesy:
WIN Television Network Pty Ltd
Year:
Year

A production still from episode 426 of Homicide, Slow Fuse featuring Jack (Burt Williams) and Gary Willis (David Gulpilil) playing pool.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Ten Canoes: The ancestors coming
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
685545
Year:
Year

The narrator (David Gulpilil) introduces his ancestors, as they walk into the bush on a hunting trip. Minygululu (Peter Minygululu) leads the column, followed by his younger brother Dayindi (Jamie Gulpilil). Djigirr (Peter Djigirr) complains about being at the back of the column, which makes everyone laugh. The men then begin to strip bark from the trees, to make canoes. Summary by Paul Byrnes.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
This is your life: David Gulpilil - Peter Weir
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
28503
Year:
Year

Peter Weir, who directed Gulpilil in The Last Wave (1977), talks about his 'star quality':

David’s a very special case. As a director you don’t very often strike an actor with the qualities that he has. A kind of inner light. I didn’t really direct David; I just watched, and that as I say is rare. And [I] sometimes asked for a little more or a little less and he was truly inspired in that film and he gave a great deal of himself in that part. And as I was watching him I was asking myself, ‘What has he got?’ and it’s a very simple answer - it’s a star quality. David Gulpilil is a star. A film star.

Notes by Beth Taylor

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Walkabout to Hollywood: Fire
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
548282
Year:
Year

In this short excerpt David Gulpilil is seen in the outback catching birds and then cooking them over an open fire, in the same way that his ancestors have always done. The process of lighting the fire using just sticks and dried grass and kindling is mesmerising to watch. 

This clip is from the film Walkabout to Hollywood, which examines how Aboriginal people have been portrayed in film and how the film industry has treated Aboriginal people. It is also actor David Gulpilil's life story.

After acting in Walkabout (1970), it follows his life and how he dealt with his sudden fame in the United States and returning home to a more traditional way of life.

To learn more about David Gulpilil visit his curated collection and portrait.

Notes by Mel Bondfield

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
The Tracker: 'Born for that noose'
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
518340
Year:
Year

The veteran (Grant Page) has been wounded by a spear. The fanatic (Gary Sweet) wants to leave him, but the tracker (David Gulpilil) refuses – even when horse-whipped. The tracker knows he is indispensable. Summary by Paul Byrnes.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
David Gulpilil as Fingerbone Bill and Greg Rowe as Storm Boy next to each other in the long grass
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/09-2016/storm_boy_still_11_cropped.jpg
Storm Boy - David Gulpilil and Greg Rowe in long grass
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1447284
Courtesy:
South Australian Film Corporation
Year:
Year

A frame capture from Storm Boy of Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil) and Storm Boy (Greg Rowe).

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Rabbit-Proof Fence: The wrong fence
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
50777
Year:
Year

Mr Neville (Kenneth Branagh) tells the police inspector (Roy Billing) that the three escaped girls must be following the rabbit-proof fence north, to their home. He devises a plan to catch them, sending police troopers down the fence from the north, and the tracker Moodoo (David Gulpilil) up from the south. In the desert, Molly (Everlyn Sampi) carries little Daisy (Tianna Sansbury) on her back. They find food with a fence workman (Ken Radley), who tells them they’re on the Number 2 fence. Until this moment, Molly hasn’t known there was more than one. Gracie (Laura Monaghan) realises immediately they are on the wrong fence. They have come west when they want to go north. The workman sends them in the right direction, but their detour has saved them from getting caught. Summary by Paul Byrnes.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Storm Boy trailer
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
5151
Courtesy:
South Australian Film Corporation
Year:
Year

The original trailer for Storm Boy. The classic 1976 film has been digitally restored as part of NFSA Restores. Starring Greg Rowe, David Gulpilil and Peter Cummins.

Synopsis: A 10-year-old boy (Greg Rowe), living with his father in the wild Coorong wetlands of South Australia, rescues a baby pelican orphaned by hunters. With the help of Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil), the boy and the bird become inseparable, until the outside world encroaches.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
An older David Gulpilil jumping up in the air in the bush. He's in front of a lean-to shelter.
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/06-2017/charliescountry_1234930_jump_crop.jpg
Charlie's Country - David Gulpilil jumping up
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1234930
Courtesy:
Vertigo Productions
Year:
Year

Jumping for joy: a production still of David Gulpilil in the title role of the Rolf de Heer film Charlie's Country (2014).

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons