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The fate of West Papua moves viewers

The Grand Theatre was full on Monday for an evening dedicated to short documentaries, Window on Shorts. For two hours, the audience journeyed to the four corners of Oceania, exploring at times under appreciated aspects of our huge region. The political situation in West Papua also left its mark on many.

‘This evening you are the jury!’ began Mareva Leu, delegate general of Afifo, opening the Window on Shorts evening. The audience, invited to watch this screening, is in effect voting for the best documentary short film from among the 11 films put forward. At the exit of the screening many people are touched and surprised by Aprila, a documentary condemning journalism and more generally democracy in West Papua, a province of Indonesia with a special status, where many Papuans fight for their independence. ‘I had no idea what was happening over there, this film taught me a great deal’, says Fabien. Tehei was also moved by the story of the young journalist Aprila who decided to quit her profession after receiving death threats: ‘I didn’t think such violence still existed!’ The images are however tame in contrast to the many clips circulating on social networks that explicitly show the atrocities perpetrated by the Indonesian police. Filmed in black and white, the film draws its strength from its subject, as well as from its music, Nicolas believes. ‘It’s well thought-out. The music is very good and very fitting for the images. It’s also a good subject, nobody talks about it’, he declares.

‘It’s also important to laugh!’

Some members of the audience preferred something a little more light-hearted. Rosemarie, for example, voted for Transblack: Sammy, the portrait of a young Australian Aborigine from a small northern town who was born a boy and became a young woman with a strong character and irresistible laugh. ‘This film stands out the most. I thought it was original and genuine’, confides Rosemarie. Caroline favours the feel-good film of the evening Maori Metal: ‘Documentaries are often about heavy subjects, it’s also important to laugh, and this film is really funny.’ The montage continuously plays on the contrast between the tranquil New Zealand and this family heavy metal group. But do not be mistaken, it’s not all laughs, above all the film tells the story of young boys who have chosen to sing in the Maori language and value their native culture. Their group Weaponry proves to be an enormous success!

Hinatea and Moe for their part voted for a ‘documentary about the planet’, Gwala Rising in the Bwanabwana islands. In Papua New Guinea, a community successfully establish a gwala, the Papuan version of rahui to better preserve sea resources by restricting fishing in certain areas. ‘It was moving to see a concept that we are familiar with here, that should be expanded on, we should be inspired by this example and replicate it here. When you see the size of the pahua fish, they’re huge! The benefits are visible to the naked eye’ emphasises Hinatea. ‘While here, you can see that the size of the fish on the side of the road is getting smaller… The importance of rahui is still being discussed by part of the population, it should be better respected’, adds Moe. The evening ends on this question of environmental conservation with a poignant poem by Kathy Jetni Kijine in Anointed.

FIFO – Elodie Largenton