Screening adventures

Wed, 18/03/2009 – Michel Fanton

In September 2008 we had an enlivening experience on our way to screening the film in a Solomon Islands village. The crossing to the steep volcanic island of Savo from the main island of Guadalcanal was by small motor canoe with neither floatation nor life jackets. Halfway there in rough seas, a heavy rainstorm and night falling, the boatman cut the engine. We were lost. There was no point wasting petrol.
We peered through the rain and mist trying to make out the island’s outline, contemplated our watery fate, the mind flicking through scenes of how we would behave. Who would commandeer the two small buoys? It makes you feel more alive! We resigned to lying in the covered prow out of the rain. It looked like at least a night in the fragile bark drifting across the choppy sea. As with all islanders the four other passengers took this stoically, bailing out the constant stream of sea-water lapping over the gunnels. As strangers to this scenario we felt that we had nothing, no skills, no knowledge, no bright ideas, to contribute that would not compromise all our lives. Forty-five minutes later the rain lifted enough for the boatman to distinguish the island and we pushed through the waves to our destination.
It took three days to organise the screening. The first day the villagers borrowed a DVD player and a television from two neighbouring hamlets. All gathered as the sun set over the coconut framed sea, but the generator did not cooperate. The next day four hefty teenagers carried a replacement from a distant village, with a can of petrol sourced the third day and we were set. By this time news had spread and thirty adults and fifty children gathered around the small TV. They hung on every word and laughed in the right places.
The Solomon Islands is a fully-fledged nation in the Pacific, south-east of Papua New Guinea. The country sells its copra (dried coconut), fermented cocoa beans, minerals and magnificent, yet ever-shrinking, tropical forest to pay its debts. Same deal for their oceans and fishes. It also gives its best land to host massive palm oil palm plantations on 99 years leases. Imported food threatens the islanders’ health.
The Seed Savers DVD, ‘Our Seeds: Seeds Blong Yumi’, may help in a modest way to reverse this trend.