Gurrumul (film)

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Gurrumul (film) art work.jpg
Theatrical film poster
Directed byPaul Damien Williams
Produced byShannon Swan
CinematographyGavin Head, Dan Maxwell, Katie Millwright, Matt Toll
Distributed byMadman Films
Release date
26 April 2018

Gurrumul is a 2018 Australian documentary film about the life of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. the film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2018 to positive reviews.[1] The film was released in Australia on 26 April 2018.


Celebrated by audiences at home and abroad, indigenous artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu was one of the most important and acclaimed voices to ever come out of Australia. Blind from birth, he found purpose and meaning through songs and music inspired by his community and country on Elcho Island in far North East Arnhem Land. Living a traditional Yolngu life, his breakthrough album Gurrumul brought him to a crossroads as audiences and artists around the world began to embrace his music.[2]

Director Paul Williams became the in-house filmmaker at Skinnyfish Music, Gurrumul's Darwin-based record label in 2012, and came up with the idea to make the documentary. Williams said "I really wanted to show the difficulty that an indigenous person from a remote traditional community has interfacing with the white, balanda, world. In particular interfacing with the expectation of celebrity, the expectation of fame and the expectations of what was rapidly becoming an international music career." adding "I'd really love it to be on school curriculum after the theatrical release is done because the kind of conversations that can be had around this film, and its central themes about Australia, about the future of this country, about the future of race relations, I think is really important."[3]


Gurrumul was met with positive reviews from critics and audiences, sitting on 8.9/10 on the Internet Movie Database.

Luke Buckmaster from The Guardian gave the film 4.5 out of 5, saying "Core to the film is the question of what it means to be an Indigenous Australian in the modern world." He added: "For Gurrumul fans, the film is obviously a must-see. For those unfamiliar, or vaguely familiar with his work, it’s an even greater treat: they will be entertained, enthralled, perhaps in some small way changed."[4]

Stephanie Bunbury from The Sydney Morning Herald said "Gurrumul was blind from birth but... he could play any instrument he picked up. He played with Yothu Yindi, then with his own group Saltwater Band before releasing a self-titled solo album in 2008.... He won ARIA Awards; he played for the Queen and for Barack Obama, continuing all the while to live on Elcho Island, hunting and fishing. The film makes it clear this wasn't always an easy mix."[5]

Award Date of Ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Asia Pacific Screen Awards 29 November 2018 Best Documentary Feature Film Shannon Swan, Paul Damien Williams Won [6]
Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards 3 December 2018 Best Feature Length Documentary Paul Damien Williams, Shannon Swan Won [7]
Best Cinematography in a Documentary Dan Maxwell, Katie Milwright, Matt Toll, Gavin Head Nominated
Best Editing in a Documentary Shannon Swan, Ken Sallows Nominated
Best Sound in a Documentary Pip Atherstone-Reid, Simon Rosenberg Nominated
Best Original Music Score in a Documentary Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Erkki Veltheim, Michael Hohnen, Matthew Cunliffe Nominated

In 2019, the film won a Grand Jury Special Prize (Prix Spécial du Jury) at the FIFO film festival in Tahiti.[8]


  1. ^ "'Gurrumul' debuts to raves in Berlin". SBS. 20 February 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Gurrumul IN CINEMAS APRIL 25". Madman Films. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Gurrumul film follows his remarkable life". 14 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Gurrumul review – stirring and soulful ode to Australia's most important voice". The Guardian. 15 February 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Gurrumul documentary bridges two worlds to remember a great talent". Sydney Morning Herald. 22 February 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  6. ^ "2018 APSA Winners Announced".
  7. ^ "Gurrumul Awards". IMDb.
  8. ^ "Palmarès du 16e FIFO - Polynésie la 1ère". Polynésie la 1ère (in French). 30 September 2019. Retrieved 17 December 2020.

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