It was with real sadness that we learnt of Dennis O’Rourke’s death on 15 June at the age of 68. The director of heartfelt and very personal film perspectives in documentaries as diverse as Yumi Yet (1975); Half Life (1986), Cunnamulla (2000) and Land Mines – A Love Story (2004), he remains an independent voice always assured of animated debate and sometimes outright controversy.
Dennis was one of the larger-than-life characters in the Australian film industry who give substance and colour to our work in the NFSA. From the 1980s onwards, he lodged much of the production material for his entire film career with us and, in so doing, he charmed and challenged us at every turn.
The value of the entire collection will become clearer as more time passes, ranging as it does over every title he created, and often including his research and paperwork as well as the films themselves. His presence as the filmmaker within his own films means that the audience will continue to discover the man behind the camera.
In his big tropical shirts, and always ready to chat, enquire or debate, Dennis was also a delightful colleague who was genuinely interested in both the value of film in the 'now’, and its potential to still impact and influence in the future.
He was passionate about what he felt mattered on political and social fronts; he developed a unique sense of truth and verisimilitude in his filmmaking style, and there is really no-one in the field who is quite like him.
He will be missed and we will continue to celebrate the best in the man through his films and the unique Dennis O’Rourke perspective they provide.