DER Documentary

Papa Bilong Chimbu

launch preview watch a preview

by Verena Thomas
color, 54 min, 2008

Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
See pricing information and conditions

In 1937 a young missionary, Father John Nilles, arrived in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. There he would stay for the next 54 years, living with the people of Chimbu, learning their language and way of life, introducing them to his God and Western culture. More than just a priest, he would become an anthropologist, linguist, politician and clan leader.

Through Nilles' extraordinary archive of photos, diaries and letters as well as interviews with those who knew him, filmmaker Verena Thomas pieces together a portrait of this fascinating man - her great-uncle. What she discovers is an unexpected new family, who had made 'Papa' Nilles one of their own.

Set against a backdrop of colonialism, war, religion and the birth of a nation, Papa Bilong Chimbu offers a personal perspective on 'big picture' history and offers a thought-provoking insight into the complexity of cultural exchange, and the beauty, vulnerability and strength of a country and its people.

Related Resources
Papa Bilong Chimbu Study Guide (produced by ATOM)

View more photos on

Related Films
Ajishama, The White Ibis
The Highlands Trilogy

Catalog of New Films DER new films catalog cover
Join Our Mailing List
Suport DER
Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts