Surf Film ‘Isolated’ is Damaging to PNG

Dear All,

As we look forward to Christmas to celebrate with loved ones , reflect on what we have achieved over the last 12 months and look forward to 2011, it has been bought to my attention that a film titled  “Isolated “ has been released by film makers from the USA and is potentially very damaging to PNG not only for our growing surf tourism industry, but PNG as a whole.

Please log onto

The principals of the movie wrote to me on 24th January, 2008 and to CEO Peter Vincent of the PNGTPA requesting funding of USD$425,000 to make this movie entirely in PNG. In their proposal they mention some high profile surfers  and film crew . The proposal was so outrageos and reckless that SAPNG and PNGTPA rejected it outright.

It is now become evident that the film has been completed and out there for the world to view and claims to be shot in PNG and seems to portray Papua new Guinean communities as horrifying cannibals. I believe that it may have been shot in Solomon islands and West Papua as none of our ten affiliated surf clubs ,communities and  registered land and sea based surf operators around PNG were aware of this film crew and SAPNG and or PNGTPA were notified including the PNG Institute for Film which has to give clearance.

SAPNG and the PNGTPA were never party to the production of this movie in any way whatsoever.

In light of this very damaging movie , the SAPNG are now seeking comments from those of you who may know something about this movie, so that the SAPNG can resolve how to best address this issue;

1. Contacting the producers of the movie to remove it from public viewing

2. Filing a complaint with the US Embassy in Port Moresby

3. Seeking legal advice to see what our options are

If you have time, please have a look at this movie and let me know your views, as I believe that this will be have a detrimental effect on the promotion and development of our surf tourism industry in PNG and PNG tourism industry  as a whole, as it depicts an image contrary to the truth.

For all we know they could be shooting episode two in another one of our regional neighbours territorial waters without the consent of the relavant authorities.

On behalf of the Surfing Association of Papua new Guinea , I wish to extend to you all our best wishes for Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year.



Andrew C.Abel, ML
Telephone: (675) 3263999 or 3200211
Fax: (675) 3263999
Email: or
Skype: andy.surfpng

52 thoughts on “Surf Film ‘Isolated’ is Damaging to PNG

  1. The film was made in West Papua Indonesia, not PNG. It was reviewed by the magazine ‘Rolling Stone’ in August 2009.

    There’s a copy of the review here –

    It is racist and depicts Papuans as primitive spear-wielding cannibals wandering around in traditional bilas all day. These was obviously posed for the filmmakers by the locals. I reckon the references to cannibals were the locals making fun of the film crew who took the bait.

  2. I support the move for a official complaint to the US Embassy and that the Documentary be removed. I think we had enough of these ‘exploitations’ – am also considering our brothers in West Pa.

    And Foreign Affairs ban these film makers from ever entering PNG in future.


  3. Hi Andrew – and other commenters/people of PNG –
    I am one of the producers of this film. I apologize if you think our film is damaging to PNG, and I think you have all the facts wrong. ISOLATED was NOT shot in PNG- and we don’t ever claim it was. A blogger- not controlled by us- incorrectly printed it as Papua New Guinea. He is incorrect. We were in an entirely different country. Since then, we have already asked for it to be corrected but can not control what is out there already. Many other bloggers followed suit, which we have also contacted and asked to have changed to NOT mention PNG- as that information is wrong.
    Contrary to many modern beleif’s, we did visit and stay with cannibals. They were friendly, hospitable and welcoming to our crew. Not Dangerous. But that is not the focus of the film, the focus of the film is to promote peace in a hostile region, of which we will not disclose in order to protect and keep the people involved safe.
    No one involved in the film, or on the crew has ever been to PNG, and we do not claim we have.
    Andrew- we will contact you via personal email. Would love to help clear things up.

    I personally apologize for any harm this may have caused PNG, but please note this was not our intent, or under our control. I encourage anyone/everyone to travel to PNG and surf, as many surfer friends have told me its beautiful and a great country to visit.

    1. Hi Geoff, thanks for your clarification. Also note that in the trailer at 00.26 the map animation shows the label ‘New Guinea’. You will have to change that, seems like the correct place you visited was ‘West Papua’.

  4. Geoff – thank you for your reply. I have posted details which show the film never claimed to be made in PNG, but in West Papua. Although you did originally contact surfing organisations on PNG which led them to believe you intended to film there. You never got back to them to clarify this.

    While the film is primarily about surfing in isolated areas (and this aspect is brilliant), however you have shown West Papuans as spear-wielding cannibals – this is the impressions the film gives, whether it was your intention or not, it is what people see.

    I believe the local people were dressed in traditional costumes to put on a show for your cameras. They normally wear western-style clothes, and they have seen many ‘white faces’ contrary to your description. This does not reflect life in West Papua. There are no cannibals in New Guinea – west or east – despite what your film claims (maybe as a joke in bad taste).

    So I think you owe an apology to the many and varied peoples of New Guinea – West Papua and PNG) who are doing their best to make their way in a modern world. This is not helped by such reinforcement of white stereotypes.

    How would you feel if someone made a film in Canada about local people enjoying clubbing baby seals to death and others claimed this is how people in the US behaved?

    How would black people in the US feel if you made a film portraying them as Uncle Tom’s Cabin-type grateful slaves? Let them all do a minstrel show! How funny!

    This is how people in New Guinea feel about your depiction.

    So please clarify, your intentions – amend or drastically re-edit your film, or you may have the UN legal-eagles on your tail.

    By the way – did you get permission from the Indonesian Film authorities to make your film?

  5. And I believe the locals took you for a ride when they talked about ‘cannibals’. They saw you coming. they gave you what you wanted, and they laughed till sundown.

    Lesson – Don’t underestimate the sense of humour of New Guinea people. Geoff – you were taken for a dick-head – successfully.

  6. Hi Peter –
    I appreciate your concerns. But please don’t jump to conclusions. I think when you see the film you will be very pleased with how everyone in the film is portrayed. If/when you watch the film, then please make your judgements. If you still want an apology then, then I will gladly oblige. But I assure you, no apology will be necessary.

    I think you have also made unfair judgements and comparisons off a TRAILER that is mysterious, short, and tells pieces of a story- a real life adventure. By no means is the entire story of the film portrayed in only a few short minutes. It only gets you interested in what the possibilities might be. Which through your eyes, unfortunately are all negative. Yes, we do show locals in spear-wielding footage, but we also show locals in western clothes as well. We do not fabricate anything in the film, and once you watch the film, you will see it’s authenticity.

    As a gesture of my good faith, I will even send you a DVD copy once the film is complete and available – payed for by me. Just email me your address and information, and ill put you on the top of the list.

    ISOLATED promotes peace, exploration, friendship, and has a little bit of surfing too. We documented people, waves, animals and anything else that was naturally there. I know you will enjoy the film, and hope you give it a chance and watch it.

  7. Geoff – I appreciate your comment and your offer. But the trailer is all we have to go on. so far. I am quite willing to be proved wrong.

    I will do as you say. My email address is I will see your film with great interest and give it a fair review (to the best of my ability).

    I have no axe to bear other than to be fair to PNG. I have a PNG wife and family.

    So, as we say in Australia – ‘fair do’s’


    1. Err.. Peter, in order to be ‘Fair Dinkum’ and ‘Dinki Di Oz’ (Dinki Dai Oz), don’t you mean: “Fair go! (Australian)’?

  8. Geoff – contact me at the above email and I will do my best to give your film a fair review and will post this on various PNG-related sites.

    Emmanuel – do you agree?

    At least you have had the decency to contact us which many other people have not done. So thank you.

    Maybe you should come to PNG and make more films here?

  9. We would love to come to PNG- I have a few friends have have been, and they have all said it’s incredibly beautiful. Thank You for giving this film a chance, I know you will enjoy it. I will email you and we can discuss further.

  10. Geoff,
    That may well be the case, and it may just be the trailer that depicts your host communities in this stereotypical and incredibly colonialist, counterproductive light. Indeed, you yourself stated earlier that the trailer does NOT depict the true nature of these communities. So my question is simple: why do that? Why does the trailer and, I assume, the movie’s associated marketing have to go down this sensationalist and denigrating path? Of course, we all know the answer to that question … There was obviously a decision made that if you depict your host communities in their true character, you won’t sell as many movies; these communities that hosted you, showed you around and provided your crew hospitality, openness and access to their marine resources. What an unfortunate decision, to put it mildly! Even more unfortunate when you consider that there would’ve been such a positive, more enlightening alternative: to depict your hosts in their true light. I for one, think you’ve done New Guinea (WP & PNG) and, indeed, the general surfing population a disservice. But then, I don’t believe you’re targeting surfers with this movie – you seem more interested in cracking the general adventure market who might be gullible enough to swallow your “ferals vs cannibals” pitch in the trailer. Most surfers are sophisticated enough to see this pitch for what it is – marketing BS. These “ferals” as you call them would not have gotten anywhere near surf without the generosity and goodwill of their hosts (how many “ferals” do you know who get around in expensive bikinis provided by their multi-national corporate sponsors???). It may just be a trailer as you suggest, but I for one can categorically say that your trailer did NOT make me want to see your film. I felt more inclined to boycott it than anything else.

  11. Hey Danny –
    I highly suggest you watch the film before any judgements. This film is about breaking out of stereotypes, and showcasing how they are unfair. Please don’t jump to conclusions.
    Thanks for taking the time to think and comment about this film. Hope you enjoy it once its released.

  12. I have travelled many times to the island of New Guinea and have stayed with multiple tribes that continue to wear their traditional dress. In fact, if you were to travel to the city of Wamena, you can find locals, usually older men, still wearing only their penis gourds. They do not all do this for show, but are continuing to practice a tradition that many of the older locals believe is soon going to be lost due to assimilation. It is really sad to see the transformation between the old and young in that, many of the young feel ashamed of the old customs. In ten to twenty years, these customs may not be practiced anymore which I find to be very disturbing. Who says this way is wrong. Who has the right to make that kind of judgement. On my last trip to West Papua, a man begged me to take him back to England to showcase his traditions. I asked him if he would be willing to wear modern clothes on the plane. He said he would refuse to travel in anything but his penis gourd. He had pride in his culture and i admire him for this.

    I don’t think there is anything shameful about the Papuan traditional dress and anyone who says they need to modernize to Western society should be ashamed of themselves. Who says Western society is the right way. An area of the globe consumed by greed and competition, I find the old Papuan way of life to be refreshing.

    In regards to there being no cannibals, I have stayed with a tribe dealing with a sickness similar to mad cow’s disease due to cannibalism in which, the tribe consumed their dead ancestors. This is a practice to keep the dead bodies’ spirit alive in the tribe. This should not be a shameful part of the Papuan past. Once you understand the people’s reasonings for cannibalism, you will understand that there is nothing savagery about it at all.

    I don’t think you should jump to early conclusions based off a trailer which is purely to get the viewers attention, which was successful in my case. If Geoff says this film is going to knock down stereotypes and promote peace, then I am willing to give it a chance despite the imagery displayed in the trailer. I really hope this documentary showcases the Papuan traditional culture in a positive light that the Papuan people can be proud of. I have high expectations for you Geoff. I certainly hope you deliver.

  13. Hi Doug –
    Thanks for your opinion. I don’t think Western culture is wrong either, as an American myself, I believe every culture has a right to live in peace and flourish in their own way they see fit.

    This film is more about a true life surf adventure, that evolves into a story of survival, friendship, exploration, etc. We do not dispute any cultures, or misrepresent them. Only document what we see.

    Hopefully you will enjoy the film as well once you see it.

  14. Doug – are you from the University of Minnesota? If not they are doing some research into Kuru and would be grateful for your information.

  15. My ancestors were serial cannibals. I am proud of them. Their fierce, unwelcoming presence on my island was a blessing. It prevented the ‘Whites’ from intruding and imposing their degenerate selves on our cultural autonomy. places like tahiti, hawaii, easter islands australia, etc…..did not have the fierce warriors to defend their places. PNG escaped some of the worst forms of colonial subjugation thanks to our man-eating ancestors (and the dreaded malaria). and i am proud to be a descendant of a tough breed of humans who can scare the $hit out of you “civilised” humans. let the film stay as it is. there is no prouder heritage that I can brag all day about than talking about the exploits of real men.

  16. My mother’s ancestors were cannibals as well. They believed that the ultimate form of defeating an enemy in traditional warefare was to consume their flesh.

    But lets face it, those practices are gone and no longer practical in a modern world. Lets cut the crap and look at what makes the world go round…(money and advertising of course).

    So the real question is what economic benefit will we gain from maintaining an oudated stereotype? Will portraying cannabilisim be financially better for our toursim industry or not?

  17. Manu, I was just making a point.

    “So the real question is what economic benefit will we gain from maintaining an outdated stereotype?”

    * It is not the “maintaining” of “an outdated stereotype”. However, I get reminded about it from uneducated Americans, Australians, and so forth. So I give justifications about cannibalism. There was a time, a place and purpose why this practice was institutionalised. Today, that practice is long gone. And descendants of cannibals are on the internet, running their own business, taking scholarships to study in Australia/New Zealand/Britain/the US and so forth. We explain to the random curious people why our ancestors were cannibals to “educate” them on the practice, and move on with our lives like any other “modern” human being. For me the benefits of acknowledging these stereotype is a non-monetary. It is a personal one in appreciating my heritage.

    Will portraying cannabilisim be financially better for our toursim industry or not?”

    *Apparently Fijians and ni-Vanuatus have a profitable from organized “cannibal tours”. And there are niches in the tourism markets of the world who are interested cross-cultural learning and appreciating other cultures. People flock in numbers to the Inca region of South America to see the altars formerly used to sacrifice humans to the gods. Visitors travel to Auswitz to see and pay their respects to the victims of the Nazi concentration camps. Others travel to Rwanda and Cambodia to appreciate the evil man is capable of inflicting on himself. So there is also an educational and cross-cultural dimension of cannibal tours for those who aspire to be educated. Perhaps with more of such tours, the walls of ignorance and stereotypes can be broken down. Em tasol.

  18. haha this is so bad. Officially nasty. Desperate. Seriously. Hey why dont we get a few papua new guinean surfers and fly them to the U.S and make a short film about Surfing amongst Vikings from Norway…

  19. Wow, what a vigorous debate. Geoff, I am stoked to see a professionally produced surf video/documentary finally come out of this region, all-be-it in West Papua. I think you have almost hit the nail on the head (you’ll never please everyone). Although PNG isn’t the location of the film, PNG’s surfing experience is that of an ‘adventure’. If surfers want a civilised, easy going, surfing experience they go to Hawaii, Gold Coast, etc, where it’s easy to get there and onto waves. PNG’s a pain in the ass to get around, hot as hell, extremely lacking in modern infrastructure and, let’s face it, dangerous at times…. But that’s what an adventure is! That’s what the people who strap themselves on to boards, searching for the perfect break want. And I’m sure, if they’re going to fly half way around the world, that’s what they’ll expect. I’ve certainly got a few unforgettable stories about trying to catch waves in and around Wewak.

    I think, and this is my personal opinion, that the PNG tourism powers (I’m not talking about TPA), need to step away from their 70’s/80’s model of marketing PNG to the world and adopt some modern techniques of marketing the country. Like it or not, surfers in the US, etc are going to check this DVD out and go “Dude, I am so gettin’ my ass over there!!”. That is of course after making numerous comments about how hot that chick was (Damn!!)

    Good job Geoff and crew. Oh, and if you have any more of those free DVD’s laying around feel free to send me one for a review:) Looking forward to part 2 in PNG!

    I’m not going to get into the whole pulling punches at stereotypes thing, especially since I haven’t seen the whole film… which I reckon deserves to be seen before getting shot down with the negative comments from arm-chair critics.

  20. Lincoln, it is much better the way it is in PNG. No need to market any surfing getaway to so-called “adventurers”. Let the waves roll, empty of any foreign objects riding on them. Hawaii and Gold Coast is where you all should go, inundated as they are already with your lot. The lack of infrastructure is a blessing if there is one. We folks appreciate nature for all its worth without worrying about paying parking fees, renting boards, and all the corporate-driven hassles of your sport. And hey, I get to wake up to the sound of clear breaks outside my sago-thatched windows without the eyeshore of people surfing it. The blessings and ease of mind of being “underdeveloped” you might say…Ah, the life of an islander…blissful.

  21. First of all.. thanks to Masalai for hosting to this blog and maintaining a forum for so many valuable conversations!

    Geoff.. I am very confused and bothered by the trailer and the narrative of your film. Is it about surfing or cannibals?
    I think its pretty ironic that you are defending yourself by saying,”This film is about breaking out of stereotypes, and showcasing how they are unfair. Please don’t jump to conclusions.” This kinda of makes me laugh! Your trailer is full of all the stereotypes in the book! Even your title “Isolated”- there are numerous writers and scholars who are trying to break out of this stereotype alone and prove that Melanesia regions were integrated in trading systems more complex than anywhere else in the world. Cannibalism is the most played out stereotype since colonialism- but you are still buying into it. I m happy that people like cannibalbydescent are proud of their cannibalistic past, but I think there needs to be more clarification about what cannibalism means. Im pretty sure its not about hunting feral white surfers.

    If your film is about surfing in an “unnamed” remote area of the world, then I recommend that you stick to that idea. If your film is about contemporary life in West Papua, than I think you have a lot more research to do.

  22. This discourse is amazing to read. PNG has a US-based marketing firm that is 10 times more commercial and mass-market than the concept/producers of Isolated. PNG pays this firm to bring old-ass American tourists over–scuba divers, amateur writers and the like. I know both parties–the marketing firm and the Isolated producers.
    Surfing at least encourages independent exploration of random corners of the earth, without too much of an invasion on the local ecosystem or cultures. The other kind of tourism–it’s bringing in people who will be like, “Where’s my Hawaiian-style pizza? Why aren’t these roads paved? Where’s my cold Heineken?”
    You, Mr. Cannibal, you’re glad you don’t have the surfers on your shorebreaks? Shootz–if your own country had its way, you’d have tour buses of people with boogie boards and friggin’ floaty fins.
    That is all.

  23. Why no outrage / boycott of the NatGeo show “Eating With Cannibals”??? You guys seemed so angry about a small time documentary yet a mass marketed, international show on National Geographic you don’t care about??

    And this one was filmed in Papua New Guinea. Not New Guinea.
    Is this another approved project by Andrew Abel & Company? Did they PAY you to approve it?

  24. Emmanuel – I received this today from the producer Geoff Clarke.

    I wanted to follow up with you since the article on Masalai WordPress ran a few years back. The film is finally complete, and I urge you to check out our website and sign the white house petition and become an “Isolated Ambassador for Peace”. What I couldn’t expose to you before was that our film is actually about surfing and the West Papuan movement for peace and freedom. As you know this topic is controversial, and I didnt want any governments or corporations to kill the film before it could be released. I bet that makes you feel a little silly about dogging the film due to the trailer. You have to keep in mind, in America you need to make these trailers as engaging as possible so viewers make the effort to see the film. Our film has the appeal of surfing, and experiencing a culture not many Americans get to experience- so that was our hook. And once people are in the seats- they get to learn about the situation in West Papua, and are instantly hooked and want to become part of the movement for Peace

    If you go to you will see our campaign we are launching to help the people of West Papua. Even though major organizations like Human rights Watch are afraid to tackle this issue, we are not. And to answer your previous comment form the blog, NO- we didn’t have permission to film in West Papua because its a journalism dead zone and no one is allowed to film there.

    I wil be speaking on Radio Australia on Monday at 1140am, would love for you to listen if you are available too.
    As soon as the film receives major Australian Distribution I wills end you a DVD as promised.
    Hope you are well.

    Geoffrey J Clark
    Something Kreative

    1. I just watched and had so many emotions, however overall well done. I want to now know what’s happened to the initial stuff up with the UN decision in1969.I remember reading some material that there was a lot of controversy surrounding the vote to become a part of Indonesia.
      Thank you for for making/producing/releasing this documentary.

  25. Andrew Did you see the film? I saw the muvie today in The Byron Bay film festival and for sure you don’t have any idea of the topic of this documentary. My impresion of the film is totaly different as your comments. However for your iner peace this kind of independent films are only for festival and public who loves good not comercial muvies.

    1. Thanks for the comment Felipe. As you know since you saw the film at Byron Bay Festival, this blog posting is RIDICULOUS, and very counter productive considering the film was made in order to create Peace in West Papua. The filmmakers, the west papuans featured in the film, and all of the people of West Papua would appreciate it if it was taken down- especially since the claims made in the posting are 100% false.

      1. The main theme of the movie is about human rights, the preservation of a dying culture, and blocking the injustice and violence in the region. There is also surfing, but that is mostly the beginning of the film. The goal of the film, as stated in the film, is to create Peace in West Papua. If you don’t believe me, read this review –>

        Kinda makes your blog posting look real silly now doesn’t it?? Seems like you boycotting this film is whats actually damaging to PNG- and more so- to West Papua. Even Benny Wanda himself supports this film, why is it not good enough for your blog?

      2. I’m still to see it before I can honestly comment, but the film maker would do himself some justice if he just redid the Trailer to reflect what he really wants the Documentary to say.

        But sounds good from what several of you are saying.

  26. I guess the whole idea about the trailer in the first place was to get people interested, or should I say ‘stir people up’ so that a big turn out would end up at the opening of the film..

    But that’s just my 2toea comment..who knows??

    Yes and I am about 4 months late on this issue…

  27. I for one believe that whatever that is put out to the world about the plight of the west papuans is great! come on how can you complain about your little damages to your surfing industry when a whole generation is being wiped out by genocide and here you are complaing about petty comments from a movie that will help to put the west papuans’ fight to a global audience. Where are your priorities? a human beings life is more important than some detrimental comments. I cannot believe the level of inhumanity exhibited by people with narrow and selfish perspectives. You should be promoting this film and its purpose to bring this issue to a more global audience.

  28. West Papuans need more publicity about their plight.In PNG we are free, there they don’t have freedom of speech.I watched Isolated and having visited West Papua before this docs really resonated with me. Can we show some empathy?

  29. TPA and PNG Gov should have funded it. Awesome movie and it would have been done better in PNG. I have been to some awesome places in PNG and tried the waves. Geoff, we missed out big time!! keep up the awesome work!!

  30. This was a fantastic film that has brought attention to an issue vastly unknown to people of influence. Now that it has been released I am surprised to see nothing of the blog author’s review. So much negative judgment with little to no info… there’s a word for it, and this was it at it’s finest. Kudos to the filmmakers!

  31. Well I understand how there were misunderstandings from both sides but of course it was all due to a lack of information being provided. Now that the film has become main stream, I think we can all agree that isolated documents the situation, people and culture over there marvelously.
    Thank you to the isolated film makers for taking a chance on a region that does not get enough attention from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, there is a misery in every part of the world but you can see that with the communities shown on the film the people live humble but happy lives. The main problem is that when they try to do better for themselves, they are oppressed and are not able to freely speak and fight for their rights.
    Again, I hope this documentary keeps getting the attention it deserves.

    Best regards,

  32. The problem seems to stem around the fact that many have judged the whole film by the trailer. How many trailers truly represent the film?

    Don’t judge a book by its cover and surely a trailer is the equivalent for a film?

  33. just add my two Points
    i ve Seen the Movie for the first Time only two Hours ago
    i like it very much. Good work.
    thx guys

  34. Thought it was a very moving and disturbing look at how once again indigenous people are brutalized, and annihilated in the name of making a profit. Corporate greed at its sickening best. Thanks for actually trying to do something about it.

  35. In the first place we have to save lifes, the rest is vanity ang ego.
    For me it was briliant to see the children smiling!!!
    “Children mark my words” Bob marley
    Excelent film!!

  36. People who watch and like this film need to understand that the people of PNG and West Papau tire of having their lives portrayed by outsiders as primitive, traditionally dressed, spear-wielding tribals because that simply does not accurately reflect their culture or the issues they are facing. It is a good thing to increase awareness of the issues of the indigenous people of West Papua, but there are many other issues with underdevelopment and multinational mining and logging companies and on and on. This film barely scratches the surface of the problems local people are facing in New Guinea and misrepresents the people of New Guinea as a whole. It is a truly strange amalgam of consciousness raising and misrepresentation and the later aspect is, as others have pointed out, self-indulgent.

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