In April of this year, Amanda King and Fabio Cavadini, joint Heads of Documentary at Sydney Film School travelled to Bougainville to take part in the Pacific Black Box (PBB) project.
Coordinated by Taloi Havini and Georgia McRae, who established PBB Inc in early 2008, this is an incredible environmental advocacy project aimed to equip the local youth from the Carteret Islands with the skills and resources needed to raise awareness of the fate of their island paradise homes through digital storytelling.
Although Pacific communities produce some of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions in the world, they are already suffering greatly from the effects of climate change. The Carteret Islands of Bougainville are sinking and the traditional land owners are currently preparing to relocate to escape the rising sea levels.
Five ‘digi-stories’ created for the Pacific Black Box project including one titled mmm…. missing taro, launched on YouTube on Saturday July 26th. The only film produced as a DVD from the forum, An Uncertain Future, premiered at the UN Conference on Biological Diversity in Bonn, Germany in May, and has since screened at the Mori Gallery as part of the Sydney Biennale, and will be part of the line up at the Expo Zaragoza in Spain 14th June – 14th September and the Pacific region’s inaugural Climate Change Film Festival in Suva, Fiji in August 2008.
This film is currently under submission for several other key international film festivals, giving the people of the Carteret Islands in Bougainville a powerful and new connection to the rest of the world that has the ability to quickly and easily raise awareness for their plight, and to prompt international action.
Amanda King and Fabio Cavadini have been making documentaries together since 1987 as a director / producer team. They have extensive experience shooting documentaries in the Pacific region, with their most recent film, An Evergreen Island (2000) screening the same year on SBS’s As It Happened as well as at international film festivals such as the Kalamata International Documentary Film Festival, and Version 02 in Chicago to name a few. An Evergreen Island tells the inspiring story of the people of Bougainville Island who survived a ten year blockade imposed after they protested against the operations of one of the world’s largest copper mines.
The Pacific Black Box project was the first time King and Cavadini had returned to Bougainville, creating a strong impression of a country that still needs the help and intervention of its powerful neighbours. King and Cavadini were in charge of Stage 2 of the project, training some of the key participants as Technical Officers and expanding their expertise as filmmakers. These young people will now manage the ongoing use of the equipment, under the guidance of the two co-ordinating NGOs, Tulele Paisa and Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom.
The making of AN EVERGREEN ISLAND allowed us to witness and record the generosity, ingenuity and inventiveness of the Bougainvillean people living through a blockade which lasted until 1997. When Taloi Havini approached us to be involved in the training project Pacific Black Box, it seemed a natural extension of what we discovered while making AN EVERGREEN ISLAND. So that instead of coming to film Bougainvilleans as subjects, we were going to train them to produce their own films about an issue directly affecting them – an issue that is attracting a lot of media attention but in which they once again are the subjects. Through Pacific Black Box, the tables were turning in a sense. On top of that, the effectiveness of digital story-telling is that it can be made with very little and circulated widely through the internet also at very little cost.
– Mandy King and Fabio Cavadini
The culmination of the project was a ceremony attended by people from across the Carteret Islands and Bougainville mainland, including the President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Mr. Joseph Kabui, cabinet ministers and chiefs. The forum proved an amazing success, proving that grassroots advocacy can reach the highest levels of government, with pledges forthcoming for financial aid for victims of rising sea levels.
Since then, action plans have been drawn up by all the youth involved to carry out further environmental advocacy projects. These projects will address both climate change issues and other issues affecting communities of Bougainville such as open-cut mining and deforestation.
Through the commitment of their time and skills, Amanda King and Fabio Cavadini from Sydney Film School are actively contributing towards bridging the gap between powerful first world countries and developing nations who typically get overlooked in the scramble to safeguard economic interests. The Pacific Black Box project is an important step towards giving voice to under represented people, and to provoke a ground swell of public awareness and action. Governments may talk, but they will only act when people do so first, at what ever level they can.