Travel Ideals in Film
Edited By Gemma Blackwood and Andrew McGregor
Chapter Eleven: Farewell to Journeying: Dennis O’Rourke’s Cannibal Tours
Farewell to Journeying: Dennis O’Rourke’s Cannibal Tours
I travel on a journey of discovery, on an unmarked road to see where it leads. And I travel not in order to return. One cannot return to the point-of-departure because, in the meantime, one changes. So I don’t make the film, the film makes me1.
The act and desire of both documentary filmmaking and tourism often rely on dichotomies that invoke both real and imagined borders. Just as geographic borders provide a neat mechanism by which to define who is on the inside (the local) and who is the outside (the tourist); the act of documentary filmmaking spans the often unspoken cultural, social and economic boundaries between those who document and those who are documented. Intersecting with the conceit of anthropological study, the documentary filmmaker has traditionally examined those outside the boundaries; those on the margins. The documentary encounter is itself performed on the margins, and occupies an unknowable liminal space marking beginnings as well as ends2.
One film by Australian documentary maker Dennis O’Rourke (1945–2013), Cannibal Tours (1988), documents and performs the encounters between a Western tour group travelling the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea, and the so-called ‘primitives’ of the region that the tourists have travelled to see. Financed by British Channel Four, Cannibal Tours follows a tour group consisting of wealthy European ← 209 | 210 → and American tourists, travelling on the MV Melanesian Explorer....
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