The great Aboriginal actor David Dalaithngu looks back on his amazing life and career in this personal film memoir, given added pathos as the ageing icon fearlessly faces his impending death.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
The great Aboriginal actor (and dancer, and singer, and painter) David Dalaithngu has brought his intensity, dignity and authenticity to Australian cinema for half a century. Battling lung cancer and looked after by a full-time carer, Mary, in this documentary he makes his final film testament: “My story of my story”, as he puts it.
Despite his frailty, he retains every ounce of his electrifying screen presence as he talks viewers through his life and career, commencing with his discovery as a teenager by Nicolas Roeg, who cast him as the lead in the classic Walkabout (1971) and catapulted him from the Arnhem Land bush to the Cannes Film Festival and dinner with the Queen. Thus began the mixed blessing of “living in two worlds” that he has been compelled to follow ever since. He speaks fondly of favourite roles (in such films as Storm Boy (1976), Mad Dog Morgan (1976), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), The Tracker (2002) and Ten Canoes NZIFF 2006) and explains his strategy of “making film into history” by using it to record his culture for posterity. He’s also arrestingly frank and fearless about his illness, the looming end of his life and the preparations for his funeral and return to his homeland.
The documentary is generously illustrated with film extracts, archival footage and scenes from his autobiographical one-man show, but what audiences will really treasure is the seasoned storyteller, talking directly to us one last time. — Andrew Langridge