Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Preview: Strange Birds in Paradise

Strange Birds in Paradise

Where: Northcote Social Club, 301 High Street, Northcote

When: Aug 14, 1pm-5pm

Call: 9486 1677

Visit: northcotesocialclub.com

Preview : Stephen A Russell

FILMMAKER Charlie Hill-Smith spent years travelling around Indonesia before stumbling across the province of West Papua. “Like most Australians, it was completely off my radar, even with my political understanding of south-east Asia,” he says today.

Engaging with the highland tribespeople, Hill-Smith was shocked to discover the terrible stories of life under Indonesian military rule. As he built their trust, Hill-Smith began to hear of abducted children, murdered fathers and whole villages burnt to the ground; stories of torture, rape and human rights abuses. “They started asking why East Timor was getting a referendum, but Australia had forgotten about West Papua?”

According to Hill-Smith, the idea of western countries turning a blind eye to political turmoil in recourse rich hotbeds is nothing new. “West Papua is described as a mountain of gold on a sea of oil,” he says. “Every western resource company is in there, including the big Australians, Rio Tinto and BHP, ripping out timber, oil and gold hand over fist.”

Hill-Smith decided to make a documentary, Strange Birds in Paradise, which has gone on to pick up several awards and launches its soundtrack at the Northcote Social Club this week.

The film features the music of West Papua’s greatest singer-songwriter, Arnold Ap, whose traditionally inspired music became a powerful symbol of resistance. Outlawed by the Indonesian government, Ap was arrested, jailed and later believed to be executed.

“When a regime arrests poets, you know they are pretty desperate,” Hill-Smith says. “You’re not going to stop a popular resistance movement by banning singing.”

Melbourne musician David Bridie worked with West Papuan refugees, helping them re-record Ap’s nationalistic anthems, then forming the soundtrack to Strange Birds.

The album features music from Bridie, Tabura, Airi Ingram, and Black Cab, with the launch MC’d by comedians Lehmo and Greg Fleet. “There will be some great artists playing, mixing West Papuan, European and Australian sounds, and we’re hoping to reach out to a whole bunch of people who don’t know anything about it, who’ll come along and enjoy the music and the culture.”

Hill-Smith hopes the raised awareness will help West Papua’s plight. “It’s fine to stop our cattle going to Indonesia, but we won’t say boo about women and children getting murdered by the Indonesian military. We just kowtow to Jakarta; our priorities are awfully askew.”

Yet he says it’s important not to preach. “You have to have a good time and share the beat to create that interesting third place.”

Source; http://www.melbournetimesweekly.com.au