THE SHARKCALLERS OF KONTU
"About 150 people live in the village of Kontu. Of these, only a handful of men still understand the ancient rituals which allow them to go out to sea in frail canoes - to call, trap and kill sharks by hand."
directed and produced by Dennis O'Rourke
photography - Dennis O'Rourke / editing - Stewart Young
associate producer - Chris Owen
54 minutes 16mm/video Rated G 1982
"In Papua New Guinea, in the coastal village of Kontu, there are men who are able to kill sharks with their bare hands ... the fishermen attribute their power to catch the creatures - which they believe carry the spirits of their ancestors - to magic. But as 'civilisation' gains its hold upon the village by means of Western education and economics, and Christianity, that magic is inevitably disappearing together with the village's community spirit and the older inhabitants' happiness.
Though superbly detailed in its observations of the rituals and daily rounds of Kontu life, Dennis O'Rourke's marvellous documentary is no mere anthropological record. Refusing to indulge in paternalistic notions of the noble savage, he offers a persuasive and acute analysis of how and why this culture is being destroyed by the outside world.
O'Rourke's sympathies for his subjects are deeply political, although 'Sharkcallers' is no dry manifesto. Rather, by allowing the villagers to speak for themselves and the camera simply to reveal the remarkable nature of the mens' work, he relates the spiritual world of 'magic' to more comprehensible forces with admirable lucidity."
- Geoff Andrew, Time Out (London)
"O'Rourke's film carries us through a whole revolution, or devolution, of values, and I for one found it an experience that was sometimes beautiful, and sometimes shaming and painful ... O'Rourke is one of the great Australian documentarists."
- John Hinde, ABC Radio (Sydney)
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