There’s a scene towards the end of the film Gurrumul, directed by Paul Daniel Williams screening in cinemas now, that stays with me.
Set in a record store, somewhere in the United States, we hear innocuous guitar strumming in the background as people obliviously browse albums.
Then vocals. In an instant, everyone stops, puts down the album they’re holding, and stares at something we can’t see. It’s like they don’t know what’s drawing them, but one by one they walk to the back of the store.
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, from Elcho Island in Arnhem Land, Australia, is performing live in a language we can probably assume none of them have ever heard. He has them transfixed.
The film and accompanying album Djarramirri — Child of the Rainbow were released in April, almost a year after Gurrumul’s death. The film has remained unchanged from when the artist approved it three days before his tragic death at age 46 last July.
The film is filled with incredible music and awkward moments. But, it’s an awkwardness that tells a story about working across vastly different cultures and languages. It is also about the enormous pressure facing people like Gurrumul, who live in two worlds and code-switch constantly. It’s an awkwardness we need to see.
Read more: Green Left Weekly