Dennis O'Rourke, 1988
14 August 1945|
Brisbane, Queensland
|Died||15 June 2013
Dennis O'Rourke (14 August 1945 – 15 June 2013) was an Australian documentary filmmaker.
For most of his childhood, Dennis O'Rourke lived in a small country town, where his parents ran a failing business, until he was sent to a Catholic boarding school for his secondary education. In the late 1960s, after two years of fruitless university studies, he went travelling in outback Australia, the Pacific Islands and South East Asia. During this period he worked as a farm hand, salesman, cowboy, a roughneck on oil rigs, and as a maritime seaman. He also taught himself photography and dreamt of becoming a photojournalist. Wanting to make documentary films, he moved to Sydney where the Australian Broadcasting Corporation employed him as an assistant gardener. He later became a cinematographer for that organization.
From 1974 until 1979 he lived in Papua New Guinea, which was in the process of decolonisation. He worked for the newly independent government, teaching documentary filmmaking skills to Papua New Guineans. His first film, Yumi Yet - Independence for Papua New Guinea, was completed in 1976, and it was widely acclaimed.
Retrospectives of O'Rourke's work have been held at the Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, the Pacific Film Archive in San Francisco; and in other cities, including Freiburg, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Marseille, Melbourne, New Delhi, New York, Singapore, Taipei, and Uppsala.
Dennis O'Rourke was the father of five children. He died of cancer on June 15, 2013 while producing and directing I Love a Sunburnt Country..., which is a feature film on the subject of being Australian, as seen through the poetry and poetic imagination of 'ordinary' people.
In 2005, Dennis O'Rourke received the Don Dunstan Award for his contribution to the Australian film industry. His many other awards include the Eastman Kodak award for Cinematography, the Australian Film Institute Byron Kennedy Award, the Director's Prize for Extraordinary Achievement at the Sundance Film Festival, the Grand Prix at the Visions du réel film festival in Nyon, Switzerland, the Jury Prize for Best Film at the Berlin Film Festival, the Grand Premio at the Festival de Popoli in Florence, the Film Critics' Circle of Australia Award for best Documentary, the Australian Film Institute Best Director Award (for Cunnamulla) and the Australian Centenary Medal "for services to Australian society and Australian film production".
In 2007 O'Rourke was awarded damages by the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Supreme Court for defamation by an Aboriginal rights activist, who had accused O'Rourke of unscrupulous conduct during the filming of Cunnamulla. O'Rourke also received damages from Nationwide News Pty. Ltd. after these comments were published in The Daily Telegraph and The Australian newspapers.
- Australian Screen: Australia’s audiovisual heritage online 
- Dawson, Jonathan "Australia" Essay in Ian Aitken (ed) "Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film", NY Routledge, 2006, pp 56– 61
- Dennis O'Rourke at the Internet Movie Database
- CameraWork -- web site of Dennis O'Rourke's production company
- extensive filmography and biography at the International Artist Database
- discussion of Cunnamulla with Ian Stocks
- interview with Andrew L. Urban about Cunnamulla
- ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) review of Cunnamulla
- National Library of Australia, Documenting a Life Seminar, 1996: Dennis O' Rourke on The Good Woman of Bangkok
- 2008 Australian Film Institute interview
- Dennis O'Rourke Film Biography - Film - Time Out London
- Jumping Off the Cliff: A Conversation with Dennis O'Rourke in New Challenges for Documentary, pp.128-149