04 July 2010

'Cannibal Tours' as Filmic Anti-Journey

Dennis O'Rourke is a Sydney-based filmmaker who has made a number of documentaries about people and situations in Australia, the Pacific and Papua New Guinea. His film 'Cannibal Tours' gives us insights into the phenomenon of tourism by Europeans and Americans to coastal Papua, and offers us a series of ironic episodic encounters between tourists and locals. The film is very definitely not an observational record of a single time-bound visit to a single identifiable place. It is quite difficult to form a sense of particular places (although a small number are mentioned) and there are no clues as to time. Although the film appears to start with an arrival and ends with a departure, almost everything happens in between has an arbitrary, unlocated, unspecific character to it. The only constant is that locals comment on the visitors, alternating with visitors commenting upon the locals. And there is a sense that the visitors' perceptions are usually countered with a specific anti-perception by a local. That is clearly a very deliberate construction even if it is made to look spontaneous, and balanced in a tit-for-tat exchange process.