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NAIDOC Week Spotlight: Derik Lynch

08 July 2022

Research still for Dipped in Black – photo of Derik Lynch – Photo by Other Pictures.

Derik Lynch is a Yankunytjatara actor, singer, dancer, entertainer, writer, director and producer with a passion for screen, whose country is in the remote northwest of South Australia, in the Central Desert.

Originally coming from a theatre background, Derik first appeared on Australian screens in 2015 in the SAFC-supported and South Australian filmed two-part series Deadline Gallipoli. He has since had roles on ABC sketch comedy show Black Comedy, SAFC supported short film Konya , and various projects in post-production and cultural advisory roles, including the recently released short First Nations sci-fi web series Bunker: The Last Fleet.

In 2020 Derik was a recipient of the SAFC Adelaide Film Festival and Panavision Short Film Production Initiative, helping to tell his life story in a documentary short film – Marungka Tjalantananyi / Dipped in Black. Currently in its final editing phase, the film will premiere in at the Adelaide Film Festival’s opening night in October.

Having co-written and co-directed the film with Adelaide creative, now Berlin-based, Matthew Thorne, Derik says the grant has enabled him to help tell his story of growing up as a queer artist in the Central Desert of Australia and living between the cultures of the Central Desert and in the city.

It’s not your average documentary, he says – it’s more of a biopic, with family members cast to play different versions of Derik through the years. The film is in the Yankunytjatjara language with English subtitles and for Derik, who speaks a mind-blowing 10 languages himself, this was important to help keep the language and culture alive.

“This film is not just a film – it’s like my personal diary. It touches on all kinds of things – trauma, mental health, failure, success, picking yourself up and going again,” he says. 

That’s a lesson Derik knows this better than most, after Dipped in Black got placed on hold for two years due to the pandemic. But now the film is approaching completion, Derik hopes to inspire and encourage indigenous kids and teens, showing them that the world is their oyster.

“My story can relate to that in many different ways, and I think it will be most important for young traditional fellas. Our history is ancient and special – that knowledge from 60,000 years of history shows money can’t buy you culture and connection. Dipped in Black shows the importance of country and why it’s important to return to country and reconnect with your land, people and family,” he says.

“Many of us struggle to live in two worlds, and it’s hard to find a way to navigate living in both – it can be very difficult at times. That’s why I think my story is important – returning to country helps you realise that a man is not an island – you need family to guide and support. Even though a lot of change is required in the broader picture, it’s possible for us to thrive through culture, language, and the connection through parents and grandparents.”

While this film sees him behind the camera as well as on screen, Derik says what he likes most about working in the screen industry is acting.

“As an entertainer – I love acting. I love being on screen, on set, and being creative. Now, moving behind the camera to create Dipped in Black, I’ve learnt about creating, writing and telling the story, as well as learning about the responsibility that comes with telling stories. I love to bring joy to people, and the screen industry helps do that,” he says.

Looking forward, Derik is dreaming big.

“I want to make it big – to work in big films and be recognised for my talent. I want to play roles that are important, not just background or filler roles, and not just specifically ‘Aboriginal roles’,” he says.

“Coming from time off over the pandemic, I feel inspired and want to achieve heaps! I want to be an entrepreneur and a leader and inspire and pave the way for others. It’s so important to encourage our young people to dream big and show them that it’s possible.”

Marungka Tjalantananyi / Dipped in Black will premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival’s opening night in October 2022, alongside the World Premiere of SAFC-supported ­­­The Angels: Kickin’ Down The Door. Tickets for the Opening Night Gala are on sale now.

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