David Gulpilil, an actor who who lit up the screen in his 1971 debut film “Walkabout” and recently starred in a biographical documentary about his remarkable life, has died. Gulpilil was diagnosed with lung cancer four years ago. He was 68.
The Australian actor was a pioneering indigenous performer with talents including acting, singing and painting. His film credits include “The Last Wave,” “Crocodile Dundee,” “The Tracker,” “Rabbit-Proof Fence,” “Ten Canoes,” “Goldstone” and “Charlie’s Country.” TV credits include “Pine Gap” and “The Timeless Land.”
“It is with deep sadness that I share with the people of South Australia the passing of an iconic, once-in-a-generation artist who shaped the history of Australian film and Aboriginal representation on screen — David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu (AM),” said South Australia’s Premier Steven Marshall in a statement.
“David Gulpilil was from the Mandhalpingu clan of the Yolŋu people, and was raised in the traditional ways in Arnhem Land. In his later years he was a resident of Murray Bridge. He was a brother, son, friend, father, grandfather and husband. An actor, dancer, singer and painter, he was also one of the greatest artists Australia has ever seen.”
“David Gilpilil’s life was not without its struggles — he encountered racism and discrimination, and lived with the pressures of the divide between his traditional lifestyle and his public profile,” Marshall said.
After Gulpili’s cancer diagnosis in 2017, he began work on his first film as producer, the documentary “My Name is Gulpilil,” which was directed by Molly Reynolds. It premiered earlier this year, with the producer and subject in attendance.
“This final film, 50 years after his breakthrough on screen, saw David Dalaithngu credited for the first time in his career as a producer — alongside Reynolds, filmmaker Rolf de Heer and Yolŋu filmmaker Peter Djigirr, said Marshall. “He was a man who loved his land and his culture, and he was a man who took it to the world.”