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Tribute to David Gulpilil Set to Light up the Sydney Opera House Eastern Bennelong Sails, 50 Years Since his Australian Screen Debut

To honour 50 years since the late iconic performer first graced Australian screens, the public are invited to watch a special projection of legendary Australian actor David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu AM from the top of the Opera House’s Monumental Steps on Friday 17 December from 8.30pm – 10.30pm AEDT.

 This Friday marks the 50-year anniversary of the late great actor David Gulpilil’s Australian screen debut in the 1971 film WALKABOUT. Gulpilil’s performance in the film has been credited as a cultural turning point for Australia and redefined how the world saw Indigenous Australians.

To honour this milestone, on Friday 17 December from 8.30pm – 10.30pm AEDT the Opera House eastern Bennelong sails will once again be adorned with a special projection, created by AACTA, that pays tribute to legendary Australian actor David Gulpilil, and celebrates one of Australia’s greatest performers. Members of the public can watch the projection from the top of the Opera House’s Monumental Steps.

Premiering just four years after Indigenous Australians were given citizenship, Gulpilil's dignified performance in WALKABOUT is credited with changing the face of Australian cinema and global misconceptions about Indigenous culture. The film was one of the first times an Aboriginal person was seen in a leading role that wasn’t derogatory or degrading, and it marked an end to non-Aboriginal actors playing Indigenous roles – which they had often done in black face.

At the 2021 AACTA Awards presented by Foxtel Group held at the Opera House last week, Gulpilil was honoured with the Longford Lyell Award for his outstanding contributions to Australian cinema. AACTA began working with Gulpilil and his community on this tribute six months prior, travelling to South Australia in November to hand deliver the Award, as he was too ill to travel.

During the ceremony, moving tributes from colleagues and friends Jack Thompson, Baz Luhrmann, Leah Purcell, Hugh Jackman, Bryan Brown, Phillip Noyce and Baker Boy paid respect to the actor. Watch the tribute here.

The Eastern Bennelong Sails projection formed part of this tribute, and was first shown during the AACTA Awards. 

Baker Boy dedicated his performance to Gulpilil, calling him “an inspiration to all First Nations people, artists and performers … you are forever in our hearts.”

Leah Purcell described him as “an inspiration, a teacher, a songman of the highest order and a man of deep culture. We will miss him.”

Video assets of the David Gulpilil sails lighting are available at this link here.


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