(SPC) Capturing culture on camera: Festival of Pacific Arts project tra ins Pacific media professionals

Submitted by Editor on Wed, 21/07/2004 - 21:21

Koror, the Republic of Palau

Some people are very handy with video cameras, booms and editing equipment. They know how to conduct interviews and set up a photo shoot Other people never picked up a camera before they came here. But what the 22 members of the 9th Festival of Pacific Arts Media Project share is a strong desire to learn new skills as they capture the colour of the festival.

Rosita Hoffmann

Tuesday July 20

Their ages and backgrounds vary, but all are from the Micronesian nations and territories of Palau, Kiribati, Nauru, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

During the month-long pilot project that finishes in mid-August, the Palauan team will produce the official festival documentary, capturing the 10-day cultural celebration through the eyes of two young Palauans - a rural man, Jason Kuartei, and an urban woman, Eunice Akiwo, one of the 22 project participants.

The teams from the other six countries will each produce a film recording the festival through their own cultural prisms, says SPC project coordinator Aren Baoa.

The project is providing on-the-job training in a range of film-making skills: structure, planning and carrying out interviews, and sound, camera and editing techniques. Some of the issues under discussion are uniquely Pacific. For example, codes of respect and hierarchy in some Pacific cultures and the way these influence communication can make interviewing a daunting prospect.

Going into the project headquarters (located in a Palau Community College classroom), there is a serious atmosphere of serious application as project members go over plans for documenting the four-yearly festival. It's a big job, requiring close teamwork and long days. The event, which starts this Thursday, has attracted about 2000 delegates from various Pacific islands and nations, and the programme is packed with demonstrations and activities.

Among project members is Rine Ueara, director of a local government information unit in Kiribati. Because the country doesn't have a television station, she says there has been no professional route for people to learn interviewing, camera, sound and editing skills.

Rine Ueara hopes that the things she learns in Palau will help her country - develop better visual records of its public affairs.

Michael Dekarube works for the Nauru Media Bureau, and he says that his priority is to capture on film the traditions of his country, which are in danger of disappearing. He hopes his team's film will re-energise Nauru's people to retain and rejuvenate their cultural

The project is funded by Taiwan, Republic of China, and overseen by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). SPC's Cultural Affairs Adviser, Rhonda Griffiths, who is also project manager, wants to see members "telling their own stories of the festival".

Over the event's three-decade history, she says, a shortage of talent in the Pacific led to filming being contracted to foreign companies. This has sometimes led to charges of insensitivity to political, cultural and traditional protocols.

"We saw linking the festival with a media project as an ideal way to help build practical skills among Pacific people," says Rhonda Griffiths. "The longer-term benefit is that everyone in the project will be able to go home and help build effective visual records of their own people and culture".

She hopes that the project can be replicated in other regions during future festivals.

For more information contact:
Rhonda Griffiths, Cultural Affairs Adviser, Secretariat of the Pacific
Community, (00680) 779-3612.
Aren Baoa, Regional Media Adviser, Secretariat of the Pacific Community,
(00680) 779-3237.

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