Saturday, 21 July 2018

Gurrumul: NZIFF Review

Gurrumul: NZIFF Review

Some may not be familiar with Australian musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, but this doco may look to change some of that.

Paul Damien Williams' piece follows the history of the Australian artist, whose use of soulful Aborigine tunes and definitive voice captivated a generation back in 2008.

Mixing Indigenous languages and simple music, Gurrumul's success was guaranteed, but what came with it was something more than perhaps blind musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu actually wanted.

Williams' piece is somewhat confined by the fact that the reclusive Gurrumul was no fan of talking to the media - not out of arrogance or indignance, as an early interview shows, but more out of discomfort.
Gurrumul: NZIFF Review

Despite being gently persuaded to try and engage, Gurrumul stands his ground, preferring to let the music speak for itself, and partly staying true to his reclusive nature. It hampers what Williams may have set out to do, but what it does do, as it's forced in another direction is to promote the enigma and mystery of Gurrumul.

Fans include the likes of Sting, Elton John and Bjork - none of whom are included here, as Williams doesn't wish to pursue a hagiography of the man.

Equally, even though Gurrumul was photographed with the likes of Obama and was a star at the Australian music awards, Williams' piece reveals the pain he felt over being about to break the American market, and the disconnect the idea of fame offered compared to his Indigenous roots.

It's this touch which allows Williams to show more of Gurrumul's background, his life on Elcho Island and why his sense of community and connection to the land was more important than the possibility of fame.

The end result is humbling and while it may be frustrating to some given how the usual biographical documentaries handle their subjects, this spiritual piece talks of tolerance, tradition and offers treats.

Eye-opening in some ways, and a window into another cultural world, Gurrumul insight into cultures is its sole MO, with the music and life of the man very much being a much needed and intriguing extra insight.

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