An Interview with Halaman Papua (Director)
Conveying a Realistic Image of Papua, by Papuans
Q: Halaman Papua is credited as the film’s director. Tell us in detail what kind of organization it is.
HP: Halaman Papua was established in 2013 by Forum Lenteng. Forum Lenteng is a platform organization based in Java, which uses various communication media such as video and text to dispatch information. It is known to work together with local ordinary people. The main activities in Papua, supported by international institutions, revolve around the advocacy of local health issues. This film is somewhat of a bonus by-product of a filmmaking workshop which we organized alongside the main program.
Q: Among the many Papuans who took part in the workshop, you chose Om Pius. Why?
HP: You may think that workshops are hierarchical, providing teachers to teach students—but that is not true. All of us from Java were just there to facilitate anyone who gathered to make films together, of whom Om Pius was a participant. We thought he was interesting because, after going home from work in the evening, he would be counting lottery numbers until 2 am. Every night, for over six hours! It wasn’t just me but everyone involved agreed there was nobody else who spent such energy on counting as him. He was an extraordinary character.
Moreover, we found that through filming Om Pius, we could shed light on local social and political issues. In Papua, the two main social problems are alcohol addiction and lottery addiction. There’s also the political issue of Papua’s independence. When we asked Pius if he was for or against independentce, his attitude was “I’ll just follow what they decide on.” I’m sure the majority of Papuans think the same way. The large middle class are neither for nor against independence—they just want to live in peace. And these are the people whose lives would be most threatened and victimized in times of conflict.
We Java people are outsiders for the Papuans. If we film, we could be restricted to the common Papua stereotypes. So we gave the camera to the locals themselves, with the hope that they would take up structural problems of the region. The mismanagement of modernization is a problem that continues to this day in Papua. As a result, topics like war, violence, and death are familiar topics in the lives of the everyday, that people even joke about it. These are drab subjects if dealt with too squarely, so we hoped for an entertaining and alternative way of approaching them. Om Pius seemed to have enjoyed the experience himself.
Q: What is the white powder he eats in the film?
HP: It’s lime powder. The Papuans wrap lime and betal palm in betal leaves and chew it habitually instead of smoking tabacco. The taste is spicy like chili and they say it strengthens your teeth. As you chew on, the betal turns the saliva red like blood. Everyone’s mouths are red inside because everyone enjoys chewing betel.
(Compiled by Nagatsuka Ai)
Interviewers: Nagatsuka Ai, Miyamoto Airi / Interpreter: Fukase Chie / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Ishizuka Shino / Video: Sit Pui Yin Annie / 2019-10-13