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Motion Pictures

Travel Ideals in Film


Edited By Gemma Blackwood and Andrew McGregor

This volume examines representations and explorations of travel ideals in contemporary international cinema. It assembles work from a diverse range of academic fields including anthropology, sociology, ethnography, cinema, culture, tourism, communication and language studies, with contributions from international experts such as Mary Louise Pratt of New York University, whose work on ‘contact zones’ continues to provide the framework for scholarship on travel writing around the world. The volume explores the link between filmed spaces and real locations, with one of the fundamental dynamics being the investigation of filmmaking itself, and in particular the notion that cultural authenticity may be sought and found by filming ‘on location’. Also examined are the notions of fantasy and exoticism that arise through an idealisation of the locations themselves and their transformational impact on the protagonists who travel there. Such is the impact of motion pictures on contemporary culture that these travel ideals in film will inevitably influence our understanding of cities, regions, nations and cultures; indeed, the world around us and our role in it.
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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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