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PNG surf film making waves
Kesha West reports on a PNG surf documentary that's won acclaim around the world.

Papua New Guinea is not widely known for its surfing, but for centuries its people have been riding the waves on bits of old canoes and tree trunks.

And it was the image of a Papua New Guinean boy riding a broken surfboard that inspired a first-time filmmaker.

He came back from PNG with a documentary that's won acclaim around the world.

Kesha West reports.
KESHA WEST, REPORTER: This is the remote seaside village of Vanimo. Employment rate: 13 per cent; paved roads: none. Perfect waves: infinite.

(Footage of a surfer riding a wave in Vanimo)

While the people of Vanimo have been body surfing the iridescent blue waves for as long as anyone here can remember, modern surfing only arrived on its shores about 25 years ago; as it turns out, on a plane.

ADAM PESCE, DIRECTOR, 'SPLINTERS': In the 1980s an Australian pilot named Crazy Taz was flying over the village and saw there was a beautiful wave there. And he came and basically left a surfboard there. And surfing just took to the local culture and meshed really well.

KESHA WEST: So well in fact that the village is now fanatical about its surfing, and that's despite an extreme lack of boards to actually surf on.

ADAM PESCE: The young kids will belly surf naked on whatever broken pieces of wood they can find. And then once they've done their time, they may graduate to being able to use a modern surfboard.

But that will be shared by 10 or 15 people and people will be whistling to their friends out in the surf, and they'll have to come in.

KESHA WEST: It was this image of the kids of Vanimo riding on broken bits of canoe that drew first time filmmaker, Adam Pesce, to PNG.

He came back with new language skills and the makings of his first feature film 'Splinters'.

(Excerpt from 'Splinters' plays)

TITLE: A competition will determine who will be the champion of a nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN (translation): Angelus is perfect. Nobody can beat him.

(Excerpt ends)

MATTHEW BENETTI, DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS ARTS AND FILM FESTIVAL: What I admire about Adam's effort is his tenacity to get the film made. I don't think he'd ever made a film before, and he's gone to Papua New Guinea and said, "I'm not coming home until this film is made."

(Excerpt from 'Splinters' plays)

KESHA WEST: The story takes place on the eve of the country's first national surfing competition.

One of the characters in the film is Andrew Able, the co-founder and president of the Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea.

ANDREW ABLE, SURFING ASSOCIATION OF PNG: We're talking about real life characters here, not $1 million actors. We're talking about village kids, who have taken the sport of surfing, including the women. And the movie depicts how through the power of surfing we have been able to empower our women.

(Excerpt from 'Splinters' plays showing footage of women surfing)

WOMEN: Yes. Yes. (Clink bottles)

TITLE: For one village at the edge of the world the surfboard changed everything.

(End excerpt)

KESHA WEST: The documentary manages to capture the beauty of PNG and the village of Vanimo but also the dark side.

(Excerpt from 'Splinters' plays showing footage of domestic violence)

The director says he was astounded by the level of domestic violence in the country.

ADAM PESCE: It is really as at an epidemic level. Certainly at the village level, most of the women that I've met had experience with domestic violence.

MATTHEW BENETTI: The sport is really the catalyst for you to gain an insight into the lives of the people living in Papua New Guinea and there are all sorts of issues. So you see the trouble that they have with money and providing food for their families. There's really just the lack of jobs. The surfers in particular are looking to kind of lift themselves out of poverty through their skill of surfing.

KESHA WEST: And the waves are bringing in their own dollars. With more and more international surfers travelling to PNG, Andrew Able is working to turn this new wave of surfing tourism into an income for the local communities, offering surfers the illusive uncrowded breaks.

But he says the seaside villages of Papua New Guinea will never become another Bali.

ANDREW ABLE: It is a balancing act between making a lot of money through mass tourism or maintaining the status quo of preserving our culture and way of life.

(Footage from 'Splinters' plays)

KESHA WEST: The people of Vanimo are still yet to see the film that has won a string of awards and put their small surfing village on the tourist map.

ADAM PESCE: We're both very excited to bring the film back for the village and to screen it for them, and to see what the response will be.
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