SAILAU is the Milne Bay name for a sailing canoe. It is also the title of the upcoming documentary film about the incredible 2016-2017 expedition: the world’s first circumnavigation of the Island of New Guinea in a traditional sailing canoe.
The fast-paced Sailau film trailer was released on Facebook.com/sailaufilm. Depicting the three Milne Bay master canoe sailors; Justin John, Sanakoli John and Job Siyae, as they utilise the skills of their forefathers to undertake a daring voyage of 6,300kms around the island of New Guinea (comprising of PNG and Indonesian Papua) in their sailau named Tawali Pasana.
The sailors are accompanied by Danish filmmaker Thor F Jensen, who is filming the whole journey while learning the way of the Sailau sailor (which is a steep learning curve as we can tell from the trailer).
Sailau is not only a story of high adventure as Jensen explains: “In the western media PNG and Papua are often portrayed through these negative stereotypes of cannibals and crime. I wanted to change this narrative and promote tourism by telling a positive and contemporary story of the island by making a world’s-first circumnavigation. And look, the only reason we made it around the island was because of all welcoming local villagers who hosted us and the PNG corporate sponsors, who recognised the importance of this voyage. Now it is time we give something back.”
Master sailor Sanakoli John, who upon return started working as a tourist guide in Milne Bay, is advisor on the documentary film. “We have been sailing since we could walk. This is the knowledge of our grandfathers, and now we teach our children. We want to travel around the country showing this film in schools so they understand the importance of traditional knowledge and listen to their elders.”
There is a need for inspiring role models like Sanakoli John in coming years. PNG has one of the youngest populations in the world, with 67 per cent of the population under the age of 35 and after waves of colonisation, dispossession and development, generational change in PNG means that traditional knowledge and culture is at risk of disappearing.
That is why Sailau is more than just a documentary film – it is a social impact project under Documentary Film Australia, to inspire the youth of Papua New Guinea and change the international narrative of the island.
The film will be representing PNG later this year at Expo 2021 Dubai, an event with estimated 25 million visitors. Papua New Guineans will be able to watch the film on EMTV in the beginning of 2022 and during the subsequent national film tour, which is supported by the Papua New Guinea National Film Institute and be presented by master sailors Justin and Sanakoli John.
On a long term, these campaign activities will be used for educational programmes in schools across
First the film needs to be finished and the Danish filmmaker and master sailors are inviting organisations and companies to be part of this project. You can donate and learn more on Documentary Australia Foundation’s website: https://documentaryaustralia.com.au/project/sailau/
Meanwhile you can follow the project on Facebook: https://facebook.com/sailaufilm