DER Documentary

The Spirit World of Tidikawa


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by Jef and Su Doring
color, 50 min, 1972




Non-profit and K-12 pricing also available
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This film offers a visual exploration of the daily lives of the Bedamini, on the Great Papuan Plateau.

In 1972 there were about 3800 Bedamini speakers, living in 60 long house communities scattered throughout 700 square kilometers of tropical rainforest. A longhouse community consisted of from 20 to a hundred individuals, and its site shifted every three or four years in order to clear new gardens. Bananas, the principal crop, were supplemented by taro, yams, sweet potatoes, and sago. Protein was obtained by hunting, gathering, and fishing.

Tidikawa, a gesame or spirit medium is the focus of the film. Spirit mediums are men who communicate with ancestral spirits through spirit children, who speak through the medium's body when the later is in trance. Tidikawa's days are not sole devoted to his practice as a medium. We follow him as he and his friend Haifi spend their time in work and relaxation around two longhouses, as men hunt in the forest, women garden and collect sago, huge timbers are felled with steel axes, a father plays with a baby, tobacco is smoked, a child dies. The funeral is held; the parents mourn. Tidikawa's spirit child speaks at a seance, and an initiation ceremony, Golyagi, is held. Wrists bound with rattan, bodies painted, and hair covered with bark wigs, 7 boys are initiated into manhood.


Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
American Film Festival, Blue Ribbon
Australian Cinematographic Society, Best Documentary

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