Inside the Doc showcasing Meri Markham

Verena-Thomas The documentary Meri Markham takes the spectator by the hand to join Jenifer Baing Waiko, a Papuan woman who engages in the political and agricultural life of her country. As part of Inside the Doc, facilitated by Caroline Perdrix, deputy editor-in-chief of La Dépêche, the producer of the film talks about this 26 min gem.

 Produced as one in a series of six documentaries about women, Meri Markham tells the story of Jenifer Baing Waiko, the daughter of a chieftain in Papua New Guinea, who after a brilliant education in Australia, returns to her country to take over the family cocoa farming practice and launch herself into politics. ‘What is the place of women in Papua New Guinea?’ Caroline Perdrix begins by asking the film producer, to kick off this Inside the Doc. ‘Women contribute to society but it is not really recognised. In politics, there are still very few of them, there are only three in Parliament,’ Verena Thomas explains to an audience benefitting from the cool air procured by the shade of the huge Maison de la Culture tree. ‘Jenifer has had a really great career so it was interesting for us to follow it. With this type of documentary, we wish to encourage women to assert themselves and be committed.’ In everyone’s opinion, the producer as well as the FIFO public, Jenifer’s character is a great example for the women of Papua New Guinea.

A woman with a sturdy character

‘How is the intermingling of cultures experienced over there?’ pursues the journalist from La Dépêche, who cannot help but point out the interest of this issue for Polynesians, many originating from interbreeding. It is also the case for Jenifer Baing Waiko who has a Papuan father and a mother from New Zealand. ‘She grew up in her country and therefore immersed in its culture. She speaks the local language and invests in her community. Even if she is seen as a privileged person, she is accepted as she has integrated and respects the culture of her country,’ confides the producer who also lives in Papua New Guinea. In the film, we discover a fearless woman and who takes her family, to discover rural areas and speak to the populations as part of her electoral campaign. The mother of two little boys, Jenifer Baing Waiko is helped by her partner, a talented Papuan cameraman who also participated in the film.

Politics, a human commitment

‘Even if she has not been elected, will she run again for 2017?’ questions a festival attendee who seems concerned about the possibility of this woman  abandoning her fight. ‘Right now she has no wish to do so. This campaign required a great deal of work, with human as well as financial investment. In addition, she is mother to two young children so it is not that simple!’ confesses the producer before reassuring the public whilst explaining the positive feedback from Papuans during the screening of the film in some of the communities. ‘At the end of the film, the public chanted her name, the people wanted her to introduce herself. So perhaps this film will make her change her mind…’ Verena Thomas secretly hopes. ‘She is a committed woman and the political world suits her very well,’ concludes the producer.


Suliane Favennec