In the 1930s, the Leahy brothers were the first white people to venture into the vast New Guinean interior. They searched for gold and found 1 million highland tribespeople who had previously had no contact with the outside world. The uncertainty, suspicion, and hostility triggered by the clash was in part recorded with a camera. Many years later, Anderson and Connolly got the images and contrasted them with those of the youngest generation of those indigenous people, who mistook the members of the expedition for their dead coming from the afterworld, and the descendants of the colonial expedition. The aboriginals’ need to cannibalise the newcomers against the vampire impulse of the colonisers as recorded by the camera in two different moments, 50 years apart.
Robin Anderson. Born in Perth, Western Australia, in 1948, Anderson graduated with honours in Economics at the University of Western Australia. After working for the Australian government in Canberra, she was granted a scholarship for a Master’s in Sociology in New York’s Columbia University, where she had Herbert Gans as a teacher. It was then that she developed an interest in documentary filmmaking, and when she returned to Australia, in 1977, she joined the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), where she met Bob Connolly. Together, they left ABC in 1980 to produce and direct their own documentaries. Anderson died of cancer in 2002. Since 2003, tribute has been paid to her in the Robin Anderson Film Festival, a festival for secondary school students interested in film held every year in Sydney.
Bob Connolly. Born in Australia in 1945, Connolly studied Journalism and worked in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), for ten years as a correspondent, presenter, and documentary maker. He shot over 30 documentaries, which earned him multiple national and international awards. In 1978, he left ABC to work with partner Robin Anderson. Together, they produced First Contact (1983), Joe Leahy’s Neighbours (1989), and Black Harvest (1992). The three documentaries were awarded the Grand Prix at the international festival Cinéma du Réel and the Australian Film Critics Award for Best Documentary. Rats in the Ranks (1996) was on in Australian theatres for five months. With the last film they made together, Facing the Music (2001), they got another Australian Film Critics Circle Award for Best Documentary, plus people’s choice awards in Sydney and Brisbane.