Our guest speaker this week was Tony Sutorius, well-known to the club as the partner of Tanya Woodcock and the father of our exchange student, Theo.
Tony runs a film-making company called Unreal Films. He started by making a documentary in 1994 about firefighting but has since directed feature films and other documentaries. He has specialised in making films about elections, which in themselves have encouraged and promoted sound democratic processes.
His most recent doco is about the Independence Referendum in Bougainville, which was held in 2019.
Tony reviewed the often ghastly history of Bougainville Island, the largest in the Solomons. It was a German colony in the 19th century, then passed into Australian administration during WW1, and was added to PNG for governance purposes. It was under Japanese, then US occupation during WW2. When PNG was granted independence in 1975, Bougainville was deemed to be part of PNG.
Things turned nasty in the 1980s as a result of a dispute over the Panguna Copper mine, an enormously profitable enterprise owned largely by Rio Tinto. The local people saw little benefit from the mine, which was an environmental disaster.
An insurrection and civil war led to the mine’s closure in 1988. PNG forces regained control in the early 1990s. New Zealand sent an (unarmed) peacekeeping force to the Island which succeeded in gaining the trust of the locals and paved the way for a peace accord and undertaking to hold an independence referendum within 20 years. (See below)
The Referendum finally took place in November 2019, under the supervision of the NZ Electoral Commission. The vote was 98% in favour of independence from PNG, deemed to be a fair and credible result and its implementation is in the hands of a group called the “Melanesian Way”.
Tony filmed his 40-minute documentary singlehandedly and the narration was in pigin. Its intent was to cement trust in the voting process inside and outside the country, and for the education of people everywhere.
This was a fascinating address which could have been much longer. We should invite Tony back to show us the full film and answer more questions.
Following Tony's talk during which he mentioned the documentary film, 'Soldiers Without Guns', Tania has sent a link for the trailer. I hope the link works for you.
The 'Soldiers Without Guns' documentary film, follows the riveting journey of Kiwi soldiers as they land unarmed into the heat of a war using only the weapons of Music, Māori Culture and Love to create peace.
This radical idea of sending soldiers without guns was condemned by the national and international media, because they felt the soldiers would be massacred given the first 14 peace attempts there, had failed.
This film shines a light on the untold story, of unsung Kiwi heroes and their 'mission impossible'. A story of love, compassion and hope all New Zealanders can be proud to call their own.