Early in Molly Reynolds’ vivid documentary about his life and career, David Gulpilil remarks that he’s an actor, a dancer, a singer and also a painter, before adding: “I understand all about film making.” You might say that shows a healthy ego but it also suggests he has a realistic assessment of his abilities.

David Gulpilil
David Gulpilil, Photo © Miles Rowland

Other comments that “I don’t act; I just stand there and the camera sees me” and “my acting experience is natural, like going hunting or fishing” suggest Gulpilil understands something about screen acting that’s often under-appreciated. It’s not primarily about technique, which is merely the means to an end, but an understanding of how to bein front of the camera. It’s also about how to relate to the viewer via the power of the eyes. We see that as Gulpilil repeatedly gazes forward.

This film was made with some urgency due to Gulpilil’s deteriorating health – he has terminal lung cancer – yet while we see his carer giving him his daily pills and watch as he’s...

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