Hot Docs 2018: Our Review of ‘Gurrumul’

Hot Docs 2018: Our Review of ‘Gurrumul’

Gurrumul is the documentary about Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, the late blind Indigenous Australian musician. In making this movie director Paul Damien Williams had a lot of issues to consider. Williams, thankfully, conveys the right messages. One of them is Gurrumul being a bridge between his own people and the world. There are also a lot of breathtaking aerial shots of Galiwin’ku where he was born. Williams, however, doesn’t let those shots linger like this is ethnography. He instead shows Galiwin’ku as a living, ephemeral memory. Gurrumul, and therefore, the film about him, try to preserve that for everyone to experience.

Gurrumul is also careful in its depiction of ritual. It also capably handles the values of the Yolngu people of which Gurrumul is a member. The film’s fatalism is also haunting, especially knowing that Gurrumul is no longer with us. It depicts the singer’s slow and sure rise. He went from being a backup member in bands to flourishing as a solo act. Homesickness factors in when he starts touring in Australia and Europe. Touring America is the next step and an important one for his record label. Which then brings up the problem of music as a product.

The documentary, thus, captures the frustrations of discovery. To get things right after a painful history of getting it wrong or disregarding cultures like Gurrumul’s. In depicting how different people unite to go through this process, the movie makes his music transcendental. Few things are greater than watching musicians harmonize. We get that treat with Gurrumul and his producer Michael Hohnen, who helps him through both recording and touring. While Gurrumul is recording his last album, home is in heart. Cultural preservation is a burden and a duty to him, but his fruitful, beautiful creations are worth holding on to.

The first screening of Gurrumul is at the Scotiabank Theatre on April 28 at 8:15 PM. It goes to the TIFF Bell Lightbox the next day at 3:15 PM. It then returns to the Scotiabank Theatre for its last show on May 5 at 6:15 PM.

  • Release Date: 4/28/2018
This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
Comments are closed.
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');