Strong connections

Normal, Weekender

Steven’s Window

THERE are strong connections between all of us. We share the same human experiences and perhaps socio-cultural experiences. If we look carefully at the emotions of joy, sadness, or anger we are bound to recognize similarities.
The video Strong Connections written and directed by Martin Maden made for the Technical Vocational Education has this message: “We Papua New Guineans are rural people at heart. Even as our future and our resources flow into the voids of urban moulds, this one thread continues uniting us across eventuating ethnic and regional disparities, Our understanding and affinity with our land grants us our common dignity and connects all of us together.”
The video showcases some of our talented actors such as Olivia Wilson, Hitch Loape, and France Maden. The primary message in the video is about vocational and technical education in Papua New Guinea. It does not matter what age, gender, or ethnicity one is, vocational education is an important way of learning new trade skills to develop oneself and one’s society. Other than that the video was shot in the New Guinea Islands and the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The video also featured traditional mourning ceremonies and post-mortuary rites in the Mt Hagen area. It also contrasted the highlands culture with the coastal culture.
Strong Connections is an excellent video. I had no hesitation in using it as a model media tool in the media literacy workshop in Kainantu. The workshop participants had never seen the video before. I had no idea what their responses would be. The responses and reactions to the video were very engaging. The participants felt that visual representations of their social cultural values were recognizable. There are parts in the video with very strong emotive pull that had some of the participants shed a tear or two. Some felt that the video had left out other cultural experiences of the Highlanders. To some the video lacked authenticity and cultural sensitivity. Many issues were brought up during discussions on this video.
I think the strong reactions the media literacy participants had on the video suggest one undeniable factor. The film was written, directed, and acted by Papua New Guineans. Papua New Guineans identified themselves with the characters, the setting, and events in the film. As a visual medium of media communication the video captured the interests of the viewers. The images from the video remained in their memory for a long time as indicated by the fresh discussions of the video two days after I had shown it to them.
I asked myself what would have been the response if I had shown them the video documentary Advertising Missionaries, which I had originally planned to use in the media literacy workshop.
Advertising Missionaries is a classic postmodern narrative about selling modern Western products and ideologies to the rural populations who may be semi literate or completely illiterate. To sell their products a major wholesale and retail company hired a group of theatre enthusiasts to become its envoy in marketing their products. The group used theatre and short plays to highlight the products the company is selling. They also used the opportunity to educate rural folks about social cultural issues such as population control and HIV/AIDS. The group regarded themselves as the postmodern missionaries replicating what the missionaries had done in the early 1930s to establish Christianity in the highlands societies.
The Advertising Missionaries was made by non-Papua New Guineans, but the strong presence of John Horiawi Himugu, the script writer for the PNG feature film Marabe, is there in the film credits. The film was supported also by the National Cultural Commission and the National Film Institute in Goroka. Many film documentaries have been made thanks to Chris Owen and others committed to this genre.
In a book on Native Features: Indigenous Films from Around the World, Houston Wood makes the point that indigenous films “provide powerful evidence of cultural diversity that indigenous people offer to the contemporary world”. Houston Wood went on to point out that Tukana Husait I Asua? by Albert Toro was the first feature film made by a Papua New Guinean and has set the benchmark for others to follow suit.
Tukana remains one of the first among indigenous films. We must be proud of feature films like Tukana and Marabe. The question, however, is so where is Albert Toro and the film industry in PNG or elsewhere in the world? The productions of feature films are expansive, but with sufficient financial support and resources the industry could develop further. More than the economics of the film industry Papua New Guineans can find themselves left behind if we continue to remain ignorant of what is going on about feature films and documentaries in the Pacific.
Papua New Guineans should be supported and encouraged to do their own feature films and video documentaries. Let Papua New Guineans write their own scripts, direct, and produce their own films and documentaries. Giving such an opportunity to some of our community based organizations and individuals to take up the calling would see a new trend emerge where Papua New Guineans will feel that using a visual media they can do more to help their people.
With the government’s Kundu 2 TV now in operation I hope that many Papua New Guineans are encouraged to use this media technology to promote their social and cultural experiences. I am confident that the National Film Institute and the National Broadcasting Commission are working on plans to take us beyond where we are now.
There’s a lot of talents in our communities, stories to convert into short films, or narratives to make feature films. Give them a camera and teach them the techniques of filming and what do you get? You get the whole community turning up to see themselves in film or video.
Papua New Guineans must make their own feature films and video documentaries. Let us tell our stories to the world using our own eyes and voices.