A few years ago I was working on a film about the impact of the closure of a gold mine on Dyak communities in a remote part of Borneo. They told me that they were going to move the old gold mining plant half way around the world, to Africa. It sounded a grand and improbable scheme, something like the quest of Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo. That was enough really. I did not even know really where it was going. I asked if I could make a film about it.
I soon discovered that large machines move at the pace of a dirge. Nothing was really going to stop this thing from happening. There were no consuming rapids on the other side of the mountain. But the closer I filmed the pieces of the machine, the more my attention became focused on the individuals who were winding the cogs, and on those whose lives it marched into. Eventually the machine started to become unimportant. A portrait of two worlds meeting began to emerge, built outward from a cinematographic centre. Several strands played out, with each other and with the whole. Scenes flowed from one to the other, sometimes overlapping.
The story is fairly simple. A gold mine moves into a traditional subsistent agricultural community. There are misunderstandings on both sides and yet both strive, in their own way, to understand what is going on. The narrative is fairly slight. A stranger comes to visit. There is initially optimism and then a rising feeling that perhaps the strangers may not share their wealth. Power is obviously not equal and the new powers displace the old protecting spirits. The mine brings with it a set of norms that, while rational and legal in one world, are incomprehensible and aberrant in the other.
The resulting film is made up of an ensemble of characters and observed situations, who only ever come together within the universe of the film. The juxtapositions are, I think, justified because most were shot within a radius of one kilometer of each other. There are village bards, local chiefs, security personnel, engineers, army officers, gold dealers, and farmers. The situation that they find themselves in reminds me of people in a Beckett play. They are striving for something positive, yet trapped by something that is largely negative.
I wanted the film to be based on a cinematic flow of ideas. In the end they all flow into a senseless battle. Gold was what everyone wanted, but this is what they actually found. The old village chief has the last word, which seemed only fair.
Robert Nugent, Director
Robert Nugent is from Albury, New South Wales. He holds a degree in natural resource management. During his gap year, he worked on a World Bank project in Somalia where he met an old locust hunter who mentored him. He eventually went to work for the United Nations, running projects in war zones — against locusts in Afghanistan and rice pests in Cambodia.
After 11 years, he left the UN to pursue a masters in documentary at the Australian Film Television and Radio School. He is working on a film for the Australian War Memorial, using footage he shot as an official cinematographer for them in Iraq. His company, Visible Impact Assessment, evaluates how film can be used by communities to monitor and evaluate change. It has active projects in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. He is in development on a film on war and locusts.
Mitzi Goldman, Producer
Mitzi Goldman has written, produced, edited, and directed documentaries for more than 20 years. Her films have been screened around the world in festivals in Germany, South Africa, the UK, France, Spain, the USA, and in Australia. Mitzi’s documentaries deal with social issues, personal history, and cultural heritage, and have received nominations and awards, including an ATOM award for Best Social Issues Documentary. Her credits include Snakes And Ladders; Things I Call Mine; Many Homes, Many Names; Hatred, Ports Of Destiny, Parra, , and End of the Rainbow. Throughout her career she has combined documentary production with teaching, research, and writing. She is co-head of documentary at the Australian Film Television and Radio School and an executive officer of the Documentary Australia Foundation — a philanthropic initiative to encourage private grants into the documentary sector. Mitzi holds a PhD in Cultural Studies and is on the board of directors of the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC).
Jean-Pierre Gibrat, Producer
Jean-Pierre Gibrat is an independent producer, director, and author. He is CEO of Trans Europe Film, based in Paris. He is President of the Association Science & Television (AST) and of Pariscience Festival. He has produced, directed, and written many films for television, museums and cultural organizations, including Guggenheim, an American Dream, winner, Best Historic documentary Award at the World Media Festival Hamburg 2002; Leonardo da Vinci, The Universe of Science, winner, Bronze Dragon for Science Popularization at the International Scientific Film Festival of Beijing 2002; A Beast of the Moon, winner, Mitrani Award Fipa 2002; The Heritage of the XXth Century, winner, AVICOM Award Taipei, Taiwan 2004; In the Secret of Emotions, winner, Festival Award Teleciencia de Vila Real, Portugal 2004, and Director’s Award at the Festival Film Orsay 2004. His recent film Alice in the Land of Cockroaches won the Athena Innovation Prize 2nd International Science Film Festival of Athens, 2007.
Michel Zwecker, Producer
Michel Zwecker has spent much of his working life in the non-profit sector as communications and marketing director. Michel spent many years as communications director for Medecins Sans Frontieres, (MSF) first in Barcelona, Spain then in Sydney, Australia. Born and raised in Barcelona, he is currently development manager at the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). Michel has been involved in documentary production through his role as communications director as well as independently. He is currently involved in documentary collaborations between the philanthropic, not-for-profit, and documentary sectors around high-impact stories to raise awareness of issues of social and environmental significance.