by Les McLaren and Annie Stiven
color, 56 min, 2001
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Australia's most internationally renowned documentarists (Kildea, O'Rourke, Connolly/Robin Anderson) are part of a group of expatriates who honed their documentary filmcraft while residents of Papua New Guinea. Their films, brimming with wit and character, capture the energy and contradictions of a country in transition from a backward colony, to a young nation in the modern world. But whose stories are they?
Filmmakers are now often challenged about cultural rights, and the Western domination of representation. Taking Pictures explores the issues and pitfalls of filming across a cultural boundary - through interviews with Australian filmmakers and by sampling their powerful award winning documentaries about PNG that include First Contact, Trobriand Cricket, The Shark Callers of Kontu, Joe Leahy's Neighbours, Black Harvest, Cannibal Tours and Man Without Pigs. It also covers the work of indigenous PNG filmmakers, and their own experience of interpreting film and culture.
Taking Pictures is a inquiry into the practicalities, politics and aesthetics of the documentary experience.
“An insightful and thoughtful exploration about the practicalities, politics, and philosophies of making documentaries in other cultures... We are reminded of the power of the camera as an other-capturing, self-reflecting, mediator between people, cultures, voyeurs, imitators, and visions. "Taking Pictures" is about more than the politics of focusing the camera. In a deeper sense, it also captures film's inability to be captured, and the trickiness of critiquing film through the very medium it seeks to explore.” — Anthropology Review Database
“★★★ The story of a new generation of ethnographic filmmakers... The discussions are illustrated with a healthy sampling of clips from their works, films full of beauty, wonder, humor and amazement. Strongly recommended.” — Video Librarian
“(A) stunning documentary... A powerful reflective look at documentary filmmaking in Papua New Guinea... For those interested in cultural ramifications of documentary film or ethnography this is more than a glimpse into the lives behind the lens and in front of it. I would highly recommend this film for college/university undergraduates, graduates and faculty.” — MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship