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Vale Dennis O'Rourke

18 June 2013

src: Ronin Films

It is very sad to hear of the death of Dennis O'Rourke, one of Australia's most influential and often most controversial documentary filmmakers, on Saturday 15 June 2013. Dennis died peacefully in Cairns with his family around him after a long battle with cancer.

Dennis was a large part of Ronin's life - both as a personal friend to me and my family for over 30 years, and as a filmmaker whose work was distributed and promoted by Ronin, from his earliest films made in Papua New Guinea to his more recent films like CUNNAMULLA and LAND MINES - A LOVE STORY.

In recent years, Dennis self-distributed his films, though LAND MINES still remains with Ronin. A biography of Dennis can be found on our website:

Dennis was one of the great romantic poets of world cinema. The landscapes he filmed were rarely filmed more beautifully. His vision was deeply humanist, and despite controversies that surrounding two of his films, he cared deeply about the people he was filming and the issues they were confronting - whether rapid social change in Papua New Guinea or the after-effects of warfare in Afghanistan.

A self-educated intellectual, Dennis was always passionate about new books and new ideas and music. His films reflect his deep sense of history and his broad cultural interests.

His contribution to Australian and Papua New Guinean culture, and to documentary culture specifically, will take time to be assessed properly, but it was unarguably significant. As his distributor on many occasions, I can also say that his contribution to documentary culture was also significantly practical. It was Dennis, as much as anyone else, who bludgeoned the gate-keepers at ABC TV to start showing independently produced documentaries like his despite the fact that they were in non-English languages and were subtitled. It's hard to remember that there was a time, back in the days before SBS, when subtitled documentaries were anathema to our national broadcaster.

Dennis contributed as a cinematographer to my first long-form documentary, ANGELS OF WAR, back in 1982 and I'll always remember warmly his dedicated commitment to supporting my aspirations despite my own naiveté and lack of experience.

My sympathies, and those of the whole Ronin team, go to Dennis's family.

- Andrew Pike, 18 June 2013


An article about Dennis can be found on the ABC website:

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