Papa Bilong Chimbu
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by Verena Thomas
color, 54 min, 2008
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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.