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Amazing stories from Australia and New Zealand triumph at the 4th Oceania Documentary Film Festival in Tahiti. By a Special Correspondent in Tahiti.

Australian and New Zealand filmmakers have carried off the top prizes at the International Documentary Film Festival of Oceania (FIFO) in Tahiti, held last week. Kiwi Dan Salmon’s Made in Taiwan won both the Grand Jury Prize and the People’s Choice Award. Australian Catriona McKenzie’s Mr Patterns won the first special jury prize.

"in its fourth year."

More than a hundred documentaries were entered by filmmakers from around the Pacific for the five-day festival (30 January-3 February) which is in its fourth year.

Made in Taiwan is a quirky journey film following two men of Polynesian descent who, with the help of DNA tests, discover their roots stretching back tens of thousands of years. Salmon filmed their journey from New Zealand to the Cook Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu and finally to Taiwan where they find links to an Asian ancestry.

The film itself was an epic journey, taking 20 years to find a backer. Producer George Andrews had pitched the idea repeatedly after controversial academic theories about the Polynesian links with Taiwan were canvassed publicly. Eventually, the film was commissioned and screened last year by TV3 in New Zealand, partly because encouraged by the central figures in the film – writers and NZ television personalities Oscar Kightley and Nathan Rarare. Samoan-born Kightley has recently grabbed attention for his role in Sione’s Wedding and as the creator of the sitcom Brotown.

“They tell the story through their eyes and it’s a journey that so many people of the Pacific understand,” Salmon said in Papeete where the film was screened with 38 others. “It replicates their ancestors’ journey in reverse.”

The story of Geoff Bardon, the teacher who triggered the renowned Western Desert art movement by showing Aborigines at Papunya Tula in the 1970s how to paint using western techniques, is the subject of McKenzie’s documentary which also won the Hawaiian International Film Festival Award last year.

"tapped into people’s emotions"

“The film really tapped into people’s emotions,” McKenzie said of the thousands of local French Polynesians who flocked to see the film in a downtown theatre complex. “They were trying to understand why the Aborigines had such a shocking time and lived in appalling conditions. Their artwork was a window to this.”

McKenzie’s documentary includes the last interview given by Geoff Bardon, whose health was irreparably damaged by the controversial deep sleep treatments he was given at Sydney’s Chelmsford Hospital after he left Papunya Tula suffering from depression. He died when Mr Patterns was in pilot stage in 2003.

The award caps off a great year for the Sydney filmmaker who won a host of AFI awards for her drama series Remote Area Nurse.

Salmon and McKenzie were competing with 16 other films in competition including the glossy Film Australia production The Floating Brothel and Rolf de Heer’s The Balanda and the Bark Canoes, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the highly acclaimed Ten Canoes. A New Caledonian film by Gilles Dagneau, Tjibaou Le Pardon won the second special jury prize.

Among the jurists were Emmanuel Priou, whose documentary March of the Penguins won the Oscar for Best Documentary last year, independent Australian producer Jennifer Cummins, and the director of the new Paris indigenous Museum of Branly Quay, Stephane Martin.

Published February 8, 2007


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Dan Salmon – Made in Taiwan

Catriona McKenzie – Mr Patterns

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