Gurrumul Yunupingu, Geoffrey - History (I Was Born Blind)
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Gurrumul review – stirring and soulful ode to Australia's most important voice - Luke Buckmaster
Thu 15 Feb 2018 06.37 GMT
Gurrumul became a media sensation, partly because of his enigmatic personality, which was counter to the very nature of show business. “Everything he was doing was anti-success,” says one interviewee, before the film-maker displays a rapid montage of red carpet photographs of celebrities. It’s a striking contrast to scenes capturing the natural, exquisite beauty of Gurrumul’s community and country, Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island in far north-east Arnhem Land.
The ultra-reticent singer did not enjoy talking to the media, to put it lightly. The film begins with an awkward interview that, by contrast, would make Bob Dylan’s famously combative press conferences in the 60s seem rote and generous affairs. The interviewer asks Gurrumul whether not being able to see might have enhanced his ability as a musician. Tight-lipped, he says absolutely nothing, remaining silent as the questions get progressively easier (“How old were you when you first started playing?”).
One has the impression these sorts of questions may have been the reason Gurrumul did not like interviews. They are not the kind explored in Williams’ film, either, which was approved by the subject himself three days before his death.
In one sense the documentary is limited by Gurrumul’s elusive and mysterious personality, barely able to answer questions about the artist’s motivations and his thoughts on his own life, or the lives of others.
But in another, more exciting and liberating sense, it is freed from cliches we often see in portraits of musicians (ie the tortured genius and the “light bulb moment”), and shoots off in different directions – among them a focus on family, community and land.
In one scene, home footage shows the subject as a baby and young child, as the sounds of his profoundly spiritual Gurrumul History (I was Born Blind) play on the soundtrack. It is among several not-a-dry-eye-in-the-house moments, and much more meaningfully explored than the director’s occasional, unnecessary riffs on what blindness might be like via insertion of blank black images – a rather simplistic way of going about it.
The source of the experienceGurrumul Yunupingu, Geoffrey
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsBeing left handed
Believing in the spiritual world
Blindness, macular degeneration and other sight impairment
Squash the big I am