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Trobriand Cricket

Trobriand Cricket

An Ingenious Response to Colonialism (1975) 53 mins. COLOR FILMMAKER: Gary Kildea ANTHROPOLOGIST: Jerry Leach

Kabisawali Movement--Trobriand Political Assoc.--wanted to show their fellow countrymen the game.

A Documentation film, really. How is it different from Dead Birds? Other films at the time? Well, at that time the new orthodoxy was observational filming (think Asch and Chagnon) was hostile to explanatory (exegetic) filming. Leach is determined to explain the nature of this unusual form of diffusion, and the transformation of the diffused item, contributing to anthropology and celebrating Trobriand ingenuity.

The things about dissecting a movie, unlike a cadaver, is that when you are done, it is still a whole work, we have just figured out how to think about it differently--the body is trashed.

A good deal of commentary given--some may want a little less information. It's impact on the viewer is due to his skill of explanation--his ability to convey expertise. However, the impact also relies upon at least two other things: 1) the intrinsic interest in the film itself, and 2) the observational style of camera work and editing.

Several layers to the film: 1) The game of Cricket played in the Trobriand Islands, as introduced by missionaries, becomes a substitute for warfare or fighting between local groups--and


Trobriand Cricket

how it was adopted by local groups and turned into something quite different. In essence, how a "white-man's-game" became a "black-man's-game". Even more interesting to note is that in other places around the world where Cricket has been introduced, the locals have accepted the "white" rules and play it that way, today! Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Caribbean, India. Pleasure from these folks comes from beating their former colonizers at their own game.

Thus the importance of the subtitle: an ingenious response to colonization. And one point about Trobriand Cricket is that it has evolved so much from its original form as to be virtually a new invention (rules, team size, area of play, components for play, uniforms) Plus, with each hit or out there is a victory dance, shout, and chants of taunting and posturing. These are pretty humorous and bawdy. PK chewing gum. "PK are in my hands" while PK also refers to prostitute, implying that the speaker can take on everyone.

2) Films works well because the audience is brought into the frame of action and meaning as we follow team into play, see hits, catches, appeals and hear diverse chants, watch victory dances--ever building up to a deeper understanding of the matter at hand. How would it have worked if it were simply an observational film--with a few intertitles. A minimalist fashion, kinda a brain teaser, as we try to figure out what exactly is going on. Those folks who want film to be simply observational don't like the commentary, but Trobriand Cricket works because it is contextualizes the dramawithout the explanation it would become boring and dry, repetitive and obscure. Think about watching it without the sound/ or blocking out the commentary.


Trobriand Cricket

This isn't a movie about some marginalized group on the verge of existence thanks to a European colonizer--like in South America, Africa or Australia. Trobriand Cricket illustrates how the Europeans came in, tried to change the people living in Papua New Guinea, and left leaving less of a mark than they had expected. The Trobrianders took the European idea of peace and took to Cricket as a game to make peace the more enjoyable--life did not have to be dull. They are a living, unvanquished people.

Maybe it is so popular with the "West" because it relieves some level of Colonial guilt?



Trobriand Cricket

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