Education Policy | Post Primary | Preschool | Primary | Tertiary | Search


Film on Lak people wins top visual anthropology prize

6 September 2012

Film on Lak people wins top visual anthropology prize

A Victoria University film lecturer’s feature-length documentary about the Lak people of Papua New Guinea has won a top visual anthropology prize.

Dr Paul Wolffram is enjoying international recognition for his film Stori Tumbuna: Ancestors’ Tales, with the work receiving the Jean Rouch prize from the Society for Visual Anthropology in San Francisco, an award given for collaborative and participatory work.

Stori Tumbuna: Ancestors’ Tales is a feature length ethnographic documentary produced by Dr Wolffram, who spent two years living with the Lak people in the remote region of Southern New Ireland in Papua New Guinea.

Dr Wolffram’s film had its premiere in Wellington at the New Zealand International Film Festival in 2011 and was selected to screen at the Jean Rouch International Film Festival in Paris later that year. Jean Rouch was a founder of visual anthropology and is widely known for his ethnographical films on African peoples. Earlier this year, Dr Wolffram’s film was shown at the Göttingen International Ethnographic Film Festival in Germany.

Dr Wolffram is due to travel to the United States in November to receive the Jean Rouch prize. At the same time, he will show and discuss his film at several American universities, including Harvard in Boston.

Dr Wolffram first went to Papua New Guinea in 2001 to study music and dance as part of his PhD research. He has since made two more trips to the region where the Lak people live, an area with no permanent roads, no power or water supply and few public services.

In total, he has made three films about the Lak people—the first and third aimed at ethnographers and anthropologists and the second—Stori Tumbuna: Ancestors’ Tales—for a general audience.

Rather than telling the Lak people’s story from the perspective of an outsider, Dr Wolffram describes his films as a collaboration.

“My goal is to give viewers an understanding of how the Lak people see the world. Rather than telling stories about them, it is a participatory journey where people can experience the traditional mythologies of the region.

“The Lak people are a self-sufficient community living in rain forest. These films are one of the few opportunities they have had to present themselves to the rest of the world.”

Dr Wolffram says receiving the Society for Visual Anthropology award is very special. “It is a great honour to receive an award associated with Jean Rouch, who is one of the greatest ethnographers we have seen and was way ahead of his time in his approach to making films about African peoples.

“It’s also important to see the value of indigenous narrative being recognised.”

Stori Tumbuna: Ancestors’ Tales has secured a distributor who will sell the film in the education and academic markets in the United States and Europe.

Dr Wolffram has formed a lasting attachment to the Lak people—he has been given a clan name and a place in the community and made a commitment to return to their region at least every five years.

He also gives the Lak people half of the royalties collected from screenings of his films.

"I feel very lucky to have had an opportunity to work in Papua New Guinea and feel I owe a great debt to the people of the Lak region," says Dr Wolffram.


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis: Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman'

The Guardian needed not one, but three reviews to do justice to Fennell's unsettling approach, which indicates exactly how ambiguous and controversial its message really is. More>>

Howard Davis: Jill Trevelyan's Rita Angus

Although Angus has become one of Aotearoa’s best-loved painters, the story of her life remained little known and poorly understood before Jill Trevelyan's acclaimed and revelatory biography, which won the Non Fiction Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2009, and has now been republished by Te Papa press. More>>

Howard Davis: The Back of the Painting

Painting conservators are the forensic pathologists of the art world. While they cannot bring their subjects back to life, they do provide fascinating insights into the precise circumstances of a painting's creation, its material authenticity, and constructive methodology. More>>

Howard Davis: Black Panthers on the Prowl

A passionate and gripping political drama from Shaka King, this is an informative and instructive tale of human frailty that centers around the charismatic Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was murdered at the age of twenty-one during a police raid. More>>

Howard Davis: Controlling the High Ground

Stephen Johnson's raw and angry film not only poses important questions with scrupulous authenticity, but also provides a timely reminder of the genocidal consequences of casual bigotry and xenophobia. More>>

Howard Davis: Dryzabone - Robert Conolly's The Dry

After the terrible devastation caused by last year’s bushfires, which prompted hundreds of Australians to shelter in the ocean to escape incineration and destroyed uncountable amounts of wildlife, The Dry has been released during a totally different kind of dry spell. More>>

Howard Davis: Hit the Road, Jack - Chloé Zhao's Nomadland

Nomadland is perhaps the ultimately 'road' movie as it follows a group of dispossessed and disenfranchised vagabonds who find a form of communal refuge in camp sites and trailer parks after the economic contraction of 2008. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland