Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story

Director: Paul Goldman
Starring: Jimmy Barnes, Garbage, Dave Grohl
Distributor: Mushroom
Runtime: 111 mins. Reviewed in Sep 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Mature themes, coarse language and drug references

Documentary portrait of Australian music industry entrepreneur Michael Gudinski.

This is a documentary about entrepreneur Michael Gudinski and his presence in the music industry in Australia from the 1970s to his death in 2021. It has been directed by Paul Goldman (Suburban Mayhem, Footy Legends) who worked with Gudinski on many music videos. The documentary was in process, possibly for a several-part television series when Gudinski suddenly died in 2021 at the age of 68.

Clearly, this is a film for audiences who know the music industry and/or want to know more about its vitality for more than half a century. But, this is also a film for those who may not have a major interest in the music industry. It is an interesting portrait of the successes, failures and achievements of an Australian who was significant in his entrepreneurial field. It is also an interesting film for audiences considering Australian culture over the period from the 1970s to the influences in the 1980s and the shift from record production and sales to social media and availability of product – the interesting coda of Gudinski’s activity even during Covid lockdowns.

Goldman and the editor keep the documentary moving. Fortunately, there is a great deal of footage available from the past and many witnesses from that period – with the director using the device of showing the interviewee in the present alongside photos and footage from the past. And, many of them, including Gudinski himself, have changed a great deal. So, there is a wide range of talking heads during the film, production associates and business partners, and, of course, members of the various groups, Ross Symons and Skyhooks from the 70s, Tim and Neil Finn from Split Enz, longtime friendship with Jimmy Barnes, Paul Kelly, then the strong bond with Kylie Minogue, and in more recent times, rather surprisingly, a cheery personal friendship with Ed Sheeran. There are significant interviews with John Farnham, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl and different band groups. Significant is his contribution to promoting Indigenous music – Archie Roach and Yothu Yindi.

So, what Australia looked and sounded like in the 1970s, brash, new styles of music, production, groups, bands, tours, behind-the-scenes. Then, great success in the 1980s including in the US, but less so in the UK, awards. In the 1990s, the encounter with Rupert Murdoch and the role of News Corp taking over Mushroom Records which Gudinski had founded and fostered with its talent for 20 years. The early part of the 21st century was rather lean in terms of success but, never put down, the 2010s saw all kinds of changes in Australian society and communication. Symbolic is his filling the MCG for an international concert to raise funds at the time of the 2019 fires. And we can admire Gudinski’s enterprise in 2020 organising a media concert with so much talent to encourage people during lockdown.

Behind-the-scenes there is the continued support and love of his wife, Sue and family. Seemingly extrovert off the page, exuberant, jovial, meeting people everywhere – but a variety of comments indicating some more thunderous moments, moods, business battles. This is a significant documentary on Australian culture.

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