Cracks in the Mask

Over the last 100 years, the Torres Strait Islanders in far north Aus­tralia have been the sub­ject of many anthro­po­log­i­cal expe­di­tions. The result­ing deple­tion of their cul­tur­al arte­facts has left them with noth­ing but a his­to­ry of remem­bered loss. The only people in the Pacif­ic to make elab­o­rate turtle shell masks have none left; all their mate­r­i­al cul­ture now resides in for­eign muse­ums.

In a quest to reclaim the past, Ephraim Bani, a wise and knowl­edge­able Torres Strait Islander, trav­els with his wife to the great muse­ums of Europe where his her­itage lies. Ephraim unbur­dens him­self to his diary in moments of poignant rev­e­la­tion: the arte­facts made by his ances­tors have under­gone a trans­for­ma­tion as museum dis­plays. When Ephraim asks for the return of some objects, the result­ing debate expos­es wider ques­tions about con­tem­po­rary museum cul­ture as well as the com­plex­i­ty of inter­na­tion­al and Indige­nous pol­i­tics. They thought it would be easy to talk to the cura­tors about the resti­tu­tion of some objects; but to his mind, muse­ums were in com­pe­ti­tion with each other to own the great­est trea­sures.

AT PATANTJA CLAY PAN

By 1967 there were only a hand­ful of fam­i­lies still living a nomadic hunting/foodgathering life in the West­ern Desert of Cen­tral Aus­tralia. This film shows two days in the life of three fam­i­lies who camp togeth­er by a large clay pan. Good rain fell some months ago and the clay pan is partly cov­ered with shal­low water. The men spend many hours with their spears behind a hide wait­ing for emus to come to drink. An emu is cooked and eaten. Women col­lect seed, fruit and grubs. It is early summer and the tem­per­a­ture is often above 40°C. This film is episode 12 of the nine­teen part PEOPLE OF THE AUSTRALIAN WESTERN DESERT long term film project.

RASKOLS

RASKOLS is a crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed doc­u­men­tary about the crim­i­nal phe­nom­e­non known as raskolism and its under­ly­ing human rights issues in Papua New Guinea. The film looks at the vio­lent behav­iour of raskol gangs and their grow­ing anger against a small gov­er­ment elite which is jeop­ar­dis­ing the sus­tain­able human devel­op­ment of a whole nation. Raskols are usu­al­ly mar­gin­alised people who are attempt­ing to par­tic­i­pate in cash econ­o­my in a soci­ety where pres­tige is based on one’s abil­i­ty to par­tic­i­pate in cer­e­mo­ni­al exchange. The film looks at the lives of Night-fox and Kau­peke gangs of the West­ern High­lands as they try to make sense of their tra­di­tion­al part, their crim­i­nal actions and their future.