Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Kamera Eye


With pioneer PNG Feature Filmmaker Mr. Albert Toro 2012
I taught a course in Pacific literature and cultural production in the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawaii in 2011. One of the units in the syllabus was on Indigenous Feature Pacific films. The first on my list of films, no doubt, was Albert Toro and Chris Owen’s Tukana: Husait I Asua?  The obvious reason is that Tukana is the first indigenous feature film, setting the standard for other Pacific Islands film makers to follow.

It was a pleasure to hear Albert Toro talk about his experience of making the film, how he started, and his passion for the theatre performances. He talked about the technical aspects of film and his concerns that as a filmmaker there was no money and government support in that industry. He asked where he would find trained actors, scriptwriters, camera handlers, and musicians if he were to produce a feature film. In making films everyone works together as a team. There is an interdependent relationship between everyone who makes a film.

I have long admired Albert for being a pioneer in making films in Papua New Guinea. He had the experience and wisdom to take Papua New Guineans to that world only if we work together with him.

Albert has a good relationship with the National Film Institute, especially since Chris Owen and himself worked together on the film Tukana many years ago.

The National Film Institute produced a video on how to make films. Robert Buleka of the National Film Institute gave me a copy of their instructional video: Kirapim Wok Piksa—insait long PNG. This is a video film project featuring “The Kamera Eye”, a video story and “The NFI Classroom: a grassroots guide to digital filmmaking.”  Chris Owen and Chicco Baru are responsible for making of these films.

The Kamera Eye is 60 minutes long.  The film has Tokpisin and English subtitles. In the introduction of the video the filmmakers ask: “Have you ever thought about life without photography, or cinematography, and what it must have been like for our ancestors before the early Europeans arrived on our shores with their cameras? We can only imagine a world where all knowledge was passed from generation to generation by word of mouth in 800 languages where there was no written word and natural barriers were formidable.”

“Just think, there are young Papua New Guineans today born after Independence Day in 1975 who would not know what their own parents witnessed back then without photography, Moving Images’ and “Film Archiving.’ Today photography, movies, and television, dominate my people’s lives, the technology exists for even the remotes rural communities to plug into the modern global Village.”

“Then there is the universal Digital Versatile Disc, viewed by thousands of Papua New Guineans everyday nationwide.”

The important questions the filmmakers ask for us to think about are this: “What is the public actually watching? Is there a case for a local Melanesian Film Industry and the Archives to go with it?” These are critical questions at this time when our reliance on cheap pirated videos on DVDs and what-not are swarming us and we have total reliance on films made overseas.

The second film in the same cover is simply entitled: “The Classroom”. The Classroom is in Tokpisin and is 2 hours and 17 minutes in length.  This film is used in the National Film Institute’s grassroots filmmaking project in the Eastern Highlands Province. I am impressed with the video because it is the answer to those of us who are interested in making films.  It is a film that is appropriate for us in instructing simple Papua New Guineans on how to make a film or video documentary.

The filmmakers ask: “Ever wanted to make a movie, but don’t know where to start? Now the Digital Filmmaking Revolution has made it possible for anyone from grassroots to professors, to make affordable films. With modern digital video cameras and simple video editing software like Apple Computers iMovie, it’s simply up to up to you to have an idea. Now any individual, community or artist can be seen and heard.”

In this video Chris Owen the veteran filmmaker in PNG and Chicco Baru of the National Film Institute share their knowledge of making films using the Digital Filmmaking techniques.

“Use the 22 tutorials contained in the “classroom” (Part 1) to start making movies. By doing so you can help create a new Papua New Guineans film industry with all the potential to create entertainment and eventually local employment.

The two films I have been discussing were produced by the National Film Institute of PNG for the Media Council of PNG. It is a Media in Development Project jointly funded by the Government of Papua New Guinea and AusAID.

The reason I am ecstatic about this grassroots film project undertaken by the National Film Institute for the Media Council of PNG under the Media in Development Project Initiative is because I had sounded the idea some years back through this column on media literacy following a workshop of the Media Council of PNG in SIL Ukarumpa.  I am happy to see this idea eventuate finally.

I look forward to the day when the film industry develops in Papua New Guinea to such a proportion that equals Hollywood, Bollywood, or Nigerwood. Maybe by that time we might have a name for it such as Niuginiwood, Giniwud, PNGwood or Melanwood.  

For the industry to develop there must be concerted efforts by those already working in the industry to discuss working strategies and strategic development plans in conjunction with the government of Papua New Guinea, development partners, the respective organizations such as the National Film Institute, the National Cultural Commission, the Tourism Promotion Authority, the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies, University of Goroka, and the University of Papua New Guinea, EMTV and Kundu2, and the private film and video companies operating in Papua New Guinea.

Times for working in isolation for whatever reasons must now end.

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