While still at Film School, Susi took time out to make an education film for the PNG government, on agricultural plant and animal health. ‘Development’ was bringing growth of settlements, more intensive farming and invasive species; aggressive colonisation of West Papua by Indonesia wasn’t helping. But the concept of infectious disease was a new one to local audiences, often pre-literate back in the 1980s, and outreach to support monitoring and treatment was needed. Specially toughened 16mm film prints were made in Tok Pisin (‘pidgin’) and Hiri Motu language versions were screened in rural areas.
Taken aback by the relationships within ‘development’ projects, she returned to make her graduation film in this rapidly changing country. The 2 main characters, an English volunteer and a farmer from the central Highlands, explain their different versions of capitalism to the camera, though never to each other…
The Carrot and the Stick was edited over a 2-year period and then shown at Edinburgh, Cork and RAI film festivals. (Observational documentary, 16mm, 44min. NFTS 1990)
Meanwhile Susi had been invited back to make ‘Breaking the Bush‘ with a PNG video crew, to share people’s stories of what can happen when a logging company visits your village with promises.
This was made for local audiences and in Tok Pisin (the original title ‘Brukim Bus’ has a double meaning). It was shown on the new television station EmTV, but we also distributed hundreds of VHS copies around the country – and were delighted when pirate copies started appearing.
Susi made an English-subtitled version on return to UK, for distribution in the countries consuming timber from these forests…
Cynically, in the name of ’empowerment’, local people had been given the power to sell logging rights to their forests.
VSO Keith Harris had conceived the project and brought Susi in as director. Leonie Kanawi, graduate of Skul Bilong Wokim Piksa, had been born and raised on Manus Island, so she’d seen what logging companies could do. After Susi’s Hi-8 camera was stolen, Leonie Kanawi called in a favour and we ended up working with the PNG Police Force video team.
Leonie proved to be an implacable interviewer; the fine camerawork and editing are courtesy of Ralai ‘Roger’ Ralai and Luke Gembol. Sound recordist Mandi Wandua was the only working police officer on the team; he had to be dissuaded from wearing his uniform on the shoot, but we couldn’t use the equipment without taking him and his gun along.
It’s a long story … but tragically the logging continues today.
Here we are on the local news, morning after the premiere in Port Moresby
tropical forest – corruption – environment – human rights – capitalism – participatory video – deforestation – development