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In 2008, before this journey began, I had lost track of where I was headed. I wanted to feel as though I belonged to a purpose but wasn’t sure where to turn. By the end of 2009 I had been living with the native Mentawai people for almost a year. Here I had found inspiration to make a documentary film, but exactly how I would interpret what had moved me to do so remained unclear.

Over the years this film has been chopped and changed in all sorts of ways. A number of times I’ve even thought (and written) that it really is close to completion. Throughout this creative battle though, the one thing the film has never actually been is good enough. All the same I could never walk away and so the journey just continued to evolve. Back and forth I’d go.

My hope was to share with the world what I had seen in these people – the confidence, generosity, purpose and freedom of those belonging to a culture that is both self-sustaining and their own – and to make it relevant and interesting. May sound fairly straightforward but has been quite the challenge, I must say.

I had also begun researching the impacts of loss of culture, as I’d become aware that this was quite a serious issue here too. This wasn’t to be part of the film though because it wasn’t what had inspired me. Instead I wanted to focus my story on the more sustainable aspects of their native lifestyle. If I could make a good film I’d be able to then rally enough support to help address these issues, is what I thought.

As the years went by I had teamed up with local members of the community to conduct survey activities and document the comparative behaviours between those still connected to native culture and those not. The findings were so significant that we’d also begun working on a preventative program (based on the wants and needs of the community) to address these problems. I was overwhelmed by how severe the impacts caused by loss of culture were and how important it was that I finish the film, yet I still hadn’t found the story!

I then realised that my attention – for some time – had not actually been on the development of the film. I had become immersed in this issue and in the research and development of the community’s cultural-based education program. It suddenly occurred to me that, for the first time since the arrival of this project, the film was no longer the number one priority. I felt quite relieved. Whereas for you this may have been the beginning of a year or two wondering why the hell the film-talk had essentially disappeared.

Throughout this period though we’ve been able to develop the Suku Mentawai education program; setup a Yayasan in Indonesia through which the program will run; and establish a public benevolent institution in Australia to help raise awareness and financial support, called the Indigenous Education Foundation. All of which I’d only thought possible pending a successful release of the film. Hmm, thankfully not.

So in response to the opening question, yes, there is still a film and – having realised what actually matters – also a story. Moving forward, you can expect to hear a lot more about the film’s progress as my main purpose for returning to Australia is to finalise its production. Plus also to develop partnerships and, hopefully, raise enough funding to give the native community a fair and reasonable opportunity to implement their Suku Mentawai program. All good things.

If you think you can be of any assistance in helping us achieve these goals, please contact. Thank you for your patience.

4 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Linda Burman-Hall

    Hi Rob – Happy to here you will still be working on the film. It is important to finish up and get it out there so that people, — including those who think only of surfing the huge waves far from the clan life on the main islands, — can learn about life for the Mentawai-born.

    Along with my University (University of California, Santa Cruz), I’m still eagerly awaiting the opportunity to enjoy your film. When I can go to Siberut, I’ll look into the IEF Suku Mentawai program you have launched with Esmat and others. Should be fascinating.

    Aug 21, 2015 @ 2:52 am

  2. Rob

    Hi Linda, thanks for your comment and support. Look forward to sharing the film with you! Stay in touch.

    Aug 21, 2015 @ 8:11 am

  3. Donna Rankin

    Hi Rob, I think who you are and what you do is amazing!! I truly understand the twists and turns a project can take. Life is a crazy amazing journey. Thank you for being you!

    Aug 21, 2015 @ 8:17 am

  4. Rob

    Very kind of you Donna and likewise for all the work you do for young women with your Heart to Heart project. You’re a good egg. :)

    Aug 21, 2015 @ 11:06 pm


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