James Cameron sets up to film a Baining Fire Dance

Robert Weber, James Cameron, Emmanuel Narokobi

Over the weekend Robert Weber and I had the opportunity of being the only PNG media team to have had an exclusive interview with Avatar Director James Cameron. I’ve covered the reasons and some aspects of the meaning for his passing through PNG here and National Geographic has an in depth micro site on his Undersea Exploration adventure here.

We touched down in Tokua airport on Friday with the plan to stay till Monday morning so that we had the whole weekend to fit in a time with him and his schedule. So Friday afternoon we headed out to Rapopo Platation Resort to meet Cameron’s Expedition Manager, Rob McCallum.

We had secured our break through Rob, who came to PNG when he was 4 years old and learnt pidgin in the playground. Rob has 10 years experience with deep sea work and 20 years with dive expeditions and expeditions to places like Antarctica. After growing up in PNG and then leaving he returned later to PNG working for UNDP with the Department of Environment and Conservation. So it’s only been in the last 8 years that he has come to doing work with James Cameron.

Rait Man, Rob McCallum

After Rob had emailed us telling us that we had secured the interview, you can imagine my surprise when I called him and he started speaking pidgin to me. My immediate reaction was, has James Cameron taught his staff pidgin?  But as revealed later he was yet another person in the world that had been touched by the natural environment and beauty of our country. As Rob noted to me in our discussions and especially about his experience with the sea, it was amazing to him how little we knew about the sea. He added that ‘our pool of knowledge is so small, we hardly know the questions to ask, let alone the answers. Everytime we dive, we learn’.

Rob’s ideals certainly fit in well with Cameron’s interests and you can see why their paths have crossed. I asked him what it was like working with Cameron and his reply was that ‘…he is an extraordinary individual;  one driven to perfection in everything he does.  its not just about intelligence and ability, its also about passion.   Jim is not motivated by the normal accoutrements of success;  house, jets, cars etc;  he is motivated by science and by the opportunity to make a contribution to our pool of knowledge…’

So here lay the passion of one man who had brought us all to Rabaul. Back to Rapopo now and we finally meet Rob, but instead of discussing a time and place for the interview with Cameron, the man himself turns up to our little discussion at the Rapopo Restaurant. After a brief introduction Cameron asks us if we want to join him on a trip to watch a Baining Fire Dance. Well uhhmm yeahh…Weber and I hopped into a Hilux with Cameron and as we drove out on our 40 minute drive to Baining so began the  filming of our interview with Cameron. (Unfortunately our trailer of the interview will be ready later this week,  and so I’ll save those details for when you actually watch the trailer)

When we got to Baining, Cameron’s film crew was already there setting up to film the dance. It was yet another amazing experience watching Cameron in his element as he prepared for filming the famous fire dance. This footage will be a part of his documentary on the whole expedition.
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More to come yet on our weekend with Cameron. You can see more pictures of that afternoon on our facebook page here.
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8 thoughts on “James Cameron sets up to film a Baining Fire Dance

  1. Very Inspiring. Cameroon is not a man seeking wealth and treasure but he is an extraordinary individual working tirelessly to preserve the tru wealth and treausure of our diminishing society.His movies are not just created out of fantasies and illusive imaginations but a result of years of in- depth research and through investigation into real life events and situations that really inspire him. He is an inspiration and also very creative intellect.

  2. Yeah that is awesome to hear what drives James, and Im sure some how like always PNG will have a distinctive connection with James that will always draw him back… good stuff guys, love the work

  3. Thanks for sharing-excellent stuff guys! James Cameron sounds like a really interesting man. Well done Manu and Robert Weber. Looking forward to reading /seeing more of your interview with James Cameron.

  4. Fantastic story Emmanuel – a world exclusive in fact!

    By the way Cameron is Canadian and is famous for films Terminator 2, Aliens, Abyss, True Lies and of course the blockbuster Titanic.

    I am looking forward to your further reports.

    Well done. Keep it coming.

  5. I think James Cameron has the right idea in having his actors visit places that typically represent the locations and cultures he portrays in his films. The essence of the film is all about the characters and their story with the scenery and props only there in support roles.

    While the Avatar story is about rapacious miners destroying the environment and landowner’s lives in their quest for mineral wealth, the real issue is how well this ‘make believe’ story resonates with the very people whose appetite for resources are in fact driving the extraction process. If we didn’t desire to possess the latest in technology and transport, would we really need all the resources the miners are seeking?

    Yet those who enjoy the fantasy of Avatar can’t seem to make the mental leap and see what’s happening in the real world. Clearly Mr Cameron can and has put himself on the line in Brazil for example.

    It’s a great pity Mr Cameron can’t tell the real story about PNG that needs to be told before those who took part in it are all dead. With all the best intentions in the world, even someone like Mr Cameron won’t then be able to have his actors talk first hand with those who took part in this extraordinary and true story of modern times.

    Understandably, the moving fantasy story of Avatar has become a world famous success. Regrettably, moving from Stone Age to the Modern World in just one person’s living memory seems like it’s just slipped below today’s radar.

    What seems to be axiomatic is that most people only become energised when something affects them personally. Mining and resource extraction in PNG has previously taken a very low profile in places like America and Australia. That is until we suddenly find that our own farms are sitting on coal and gas deposits and then we have to battle the same companies who are undertaking resource extraction in places like PNG.

    Suddenly the expression ‘NIMBY’ comes to mind. (Not in my back yard).

  6. Thanks Paul, this is exactly the area we want to explore with the documentary we are preparing. I do not expect James Cameron to solve our problems, but as he said to me in our interview, in the sense that, if we can use stories like Avatar to hold up a mirror for people to see themselves and what they are doing to themselves then perhaps we can begin to instil some behaviour change.

    For PNG, it really is about our leaders understanding these issues better. We are all only one or two generations out from the village so we are not that far removed from the natural environments that shaped our traditional cultures and who we are today.

    So yes Paul as you say, what do we really need here? More money or a more sustainable existence in our own country?

    I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll say it again, if we are to be receiving K100 billion in our SWF by 2015, what need do we have for an experimental undersea mine? Why kill something before we’ve even begun to understand it?

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