This project has been of a scope that no one person could do it alone. It is the result of a complex network of dialogue which could never have been created without the cooperation of all the participants, each contributing his/her own unique perspectives and abilities.

First of all, it is a dialogue between the Baruya and the Westerners. Certain Baruya people were willing to share their daily life, their ritual life, and their thoughts about the world, with the white people who came in from a world still almost totally foreign to them.

Maurice Godelier was the central figure. His emotional commitment to both the precision of the intellectual pursuit and to a direct human relationship to the Baruya formed a center of gravity and motivation for the film project which lasted from the very beginning in 1969 through to its completion fourteen years later.

Marek Jablonko was the one who took the technical responsibility for the filming in the field and for all the corollary necessities. Afterwards, in Europe, it was he who dealt with the film laboratories.

Allison Jablonko carried through the approach of research filming, always returning to the most detailed account possible of each event, its place in Baruya society, and the relationship between the footage and the actual circumstances of the shooting:

"I received my original fieldwork training in 1961 in Margaret Mead's methods course at Columbia University. Her insistence on precision, detail, and the necessity of keeping all field records in order so that the information would be available and usable to future scholars impressed me to my very bones."

Stephen Olsson, who joined the project in 1980, had the technical skills and commitment necessary to edit two films for wide distribution. His task would not have been possible had it not been for the work done in the field by Maurice Godelier, Allison Jablonko, and Marek Jablonko, and their continuing cooperation and support eleven years later.

The Baruya appreciated Godelier's work with the written word, and could see his boxes of notes and index cards gradually filling up as he collected information from them. When he was later able to retell them complex stories, ritual symbolism, and genealogical connections, they knew that their patient teaching had not been in vain. They were, however, unable to read any of his writings. The written word, which was making possible a complex synthesis and record of their culture — a synthesis more complex than had ever before been articulated by any single individual Baruya — was closed to them.

Unlike the written material, the film created a new situation, since it has the potential to give to the Baruya direct access to information about their culture which Godelier was synthesizing. When we made the very first film study of the Baruya, in February and March 1969, we hoped that the Baruya themselves would be able to see the results of it. Unfortunately, we ourselves were never able to return to New Guinea to screen any of it with local people.

The second film study of the Baruya was made by Ian Dunlop. He began on the occasion of the male initiation ceremonies of October-November, 1969. Since Dunlop is based in Australia, it was possible for him to bring all the footage back to New Guinea in 1974. At that time, he brought a group of informants and translators from Wonenara to Port Moresby where they could fully translate and explain all the fine points of ritual visible in the film. Godelier, Dunlop, and Koumaineu worked with eleven Baruya men, including Warineu.

Again in 1979, Dunlop filmed another of the initiation stages and the same detailed work was done with the this second body of footage. The Baruya were then given editorial control and control over the distribution of the initiation films for use in Papua New Guinea. The Baruya control this vital source of information about themselves and can use the films as they see fit in transmitting their culture to their own younger generations, as well as sharing their own cultural richness with other peoples of Papua New Guinea.

The dialogue with the Baruya did not cease when the Jablonkos left the field. Godelier returned to Wiaveu five times, ever deepening his personal relationship with particular individuals. The Jablonkos did not return, but in 1980 started to work on translations with Yavine Borima, the first Baruya student to go to college in the U.S.A. Thus the dialogue was further extended, and the feedback cycle begun: letting the films be a resource for young Baruya concerning their culture and recent history.

This dialogue was again expanded when, in 1981, Koumaineu came to France in order to get his first-hand knowledge of European culture. During his stay the translation work continued and detailed questions concerning events and participants could be answered. Additional information about the changes that had taken place since the time of the filming could be collected. During Koumaineu's stay, Stephen Olsson, who for a year had known the Baruya only through films and written sources, could create his own direct relationship with Koumaineu.

Further dialogue developed with the participation of Pierre Lemonnier and Jean-Luc Lory, now Godelier's assistants, who themselves were working in the Baruya and larger Anga area since 1975, and could contribute much new information.

The dialogue reached another stage when the films, at rough-cut stages, were test-screened with various audiences, so the film-makers could become aware of any misconceptions that might inadvertently be communicated through the films' format.

Finally, now that the films are in distribution, the dialogue continues between the edited films and each person who sees them. New perceptions arise in the mind of each viewer and, hopefully, call forth discussion and insights among the members of each group that views the films — whether groups of students in Western countries and Third World countries learning more about the world by establishing a link with a culture other than their own, or groups of Baruya learning more about their place in the world by clarifying their links with their own recent past.

The film projects continue. Women have not yet seen the film of their initiation ceremony filmed in 1969 by Allison Jablonko. Nor have all the villagers had a chance to see the general films. The difficulties involved are still those of financing and transportation. It is not easy to bring projection equipment in to Wiaveu. In addition, the internal hierarchies of Baruya society — the male-female division, the ritual division of men into four age grades — would put specific limits onto the audience to which one could project any films portraying rituals. However, in time, the Baruya will, hopefully, find ways to utilize more and more fully this record of their culture and history.

©1998 - 2002 Allison and Marek Jablonko
©2002 - 2011 Allison Jablonko. All Rights Reserved.