DER Documentary

Joe Leahy's Neighbors

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part of The Highlands Trilogy
by Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson
color, 90 min, 1988
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This film is the followup of First Contact. It traces the fortunes of Joe Leahy, the mixed-race son of Australian explorer Michael Leahy, in his uneasy relationship with his tribal neighbors. Joe built his coffee plantation on land bought from the Ganiga in the mid 1970s. European educated, raised in the highlands of Papua, freed by his mixed race from the entanglements of tribal obligation, Joe leads a Western lifestyle governed by individualism and the pursuit of affluence.

While Joe may live in Western grandeur, he is still surrounded by his subsistence level Ganiga "neighbors," who never let him forget the original source of his prosperity. Joe spends much of his waking hours just keeping the lid on things.

Filmmakers Connolly and Anderson lived for eighteen continuous months on the edge of Joe's plantation, in the "no man's land" between Leahy and the Ganiga. Their lively, non-judgemental narrative eloquently captures the conflicting values of tribalism and capitalism.

"This is one of the best ethnographic movies I've seen. It's set in the New Guinea highlands and focuses on Joe Leahy, a half-white, half-Ganiga owner of a coffee plantation whose role in the community is fraught with ambiguity. Is he (as some claim) a colonialist exploiter, ripping off his Ganiga brothers? Or, on the contrary, is he a new kind of tribal chief, one who brings economic development to a place badly in need of modernization? Anderson and Connolly deftly lay out the situation; but they do not tell us what to make of Leahy or his role in New Guinea. You leave the theater aware that, in its very complexity and lack of resolution, this movie reveals something profound about what's going on in New Guinea, and many other "developing" countries." Los Angeles Weekly

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Grand Prix, Cinema du Reel, Paris
Earthwatch Award
Best Documentary, Australian Film Institute Awards
Best Documentary, Australian Film Critics Circle
Award of Excellence, Society for Visual Anthropology
Basil Wright Prize, Best Documentary, Royal Anthropological Institute
Grand Prix, Festival dAurillac

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other films in the The Highlands Trilogy
First Contact
Black Harvest

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