Rating: four and a half stars (4.5 out of 5)
Director: Paul Williams (documentary debut)
Starring: Gurrumul Yunupingu.
From a quiet, dark place came a sound of many colours
Moving, mesmerising and genuinely from the heart, the extraordinary new Australian documentary holds a mirror to the unique life and music of the late indigenous singer-songwriter Gurrumul Yunupingu.
(The subject, a blind Yolngu man from Elcho Island up Arnhem Land way, signed off on the final cut days before his recent sad passing at age 46. Tribal elders have allowed its release to honour his legacy, a rare exception from Yolngu lore regarding mentions and depictions of the dead.)
In his brief career, the enigmatic Gurrumul crafted a refined body of work that conveys emotions, feelings and spirits that are difficult to put into words.
Hear his voice for the first time, one of his aunts says, “ and already the song has told you who he is in the world.”
As for any on-the-spot decoding of the achingly beautiful and evocative mystique of his sound, Gurrumul would not have a bar of it.
Media interviews, photo opportunities, TV appearances, live tour offers both here and overseas – all the trappings required by a recording artist to achieve success – were mostly rejected without a word by Gurrumul.
The man had his reasons. The man missed his family, his friends and his time alone making music too much to allow for the slightest interruption.
As Sting learnt first-hand when he persuaded Gurrumul perform a duet of the Police hit Every Breath You Take on French television. Gurrumul did things his way, or no way at all.
The most remarkable aspect of this poignant, revelatory doco is that despite Gurrumul’s unyielding refusal to discuss his music, the time we get to spend in his company here speaks volumes for a towering aural artist taken from his home and his people too soon.
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