Australian
Screen

an NFSA website

The Sharkcallers of Kontu (1982)

A video which normally appears on this page did not load because the Flash plug-in was not found on your computer. You can download and install the free Flash plug-in then view the video. Or you can view the same video as a downloadable MP4 file without installing the Flash plug-in.

Email a link to this page
To:
CC:
Subject:
Body:
clip 'Special power' education content clip 1, 2

Original classification rating: PG. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

A villager laments the passing of the most important sharkcaller of his community. This sad moment is followed by a sharkcaller summoning, catching and killing a shark.

Curator’s notes

Manuel Lui died while Dennis O’Rourke was making The Sharkcallers of Kontu. Manuel was the last man able to perform the magic from which all other sharkcalling magic was derived. The interview with the villager becomes particularly poignant after viewing the following scene of a traditional sharkcalling. The tremendous patience, skill and courage that a sharkcaller needs is captured in this captivating clip.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip depicts shark calling on New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. A Kontu villager sits in front of his house and expresses his fear that the skill of calling the sharks for men to kill has been lost with the death of the last shark caller. A young man is then shown at sea in a narrow outrigger canoe, thumping the water with his paddle, explaining that he is performing magic to attract sharks. He shakes a coconut-shell rattle in the water, catches a shark, beats it to death with a club and hauls it into the canoe. The film includes subtitles and a voice-over narration.

Educational value points

  • The vital importance of shark calling to the Kontu people is suggested in the villager’s fear that the practice has been lost but the clip then dramatically shows that it continues into the next generation. Believing that the spirits of their ancestors dwell in the mako shark, the shark callers are not only hunting but also maintaining a connection with their ancestral past. The villager expresses his sense of the vulnerability of this connection.
  • Despite the loss of some of the complex skills over the generations, the fact that the skill or ‘magic’ of shark calling continues into the next generation is powerfully conveyed in the extraordinary scenes of the young shark caller luring and killing a shark. The clip shows him softly ‘calling’ the sharks with his paddle before picking up the larung, or coconut-shell rattle. Smaller sharks such as the one seen in the clip are bludgeoned to death but larger ones are asphyxiated by being left to fight the buoyant propeller that holds the noose.
  • The shark caller seen in the clip would have prepared carefully for his task in ways that reflected both respect for the spiritual nature of the task and an understanding of the ways of sharks. He would not have been allowed to eat wild pig or crayfish, accept food from the hand of a fertile woman, have sex or step on excrement for up to 3 days before setting off. Before calling the shark, he would have anointed himself and the canoe with herbs and prayed to the shark god.
  • The shark shown in the clip is almost certainly a mako shark, as the shark callers believe that the spirits of their ancestors inhabit only this species. While a number of shark species frequent the reef off Kontu, they are not the target of the shark callers because the callers are not in fact calling the sharks themselves, but calling to their ancestors.
  • The presence of the filmmaker, Dennis O’Rourke (1945–), in the small narrow canoe on the ocean is fraught with danger as he films from one end of the canoe while the shark is snared and bludgeoned to death at the other. However, the shark caller does not appear to be at all distracted by his presence and O’Rourke is able to capture this remarkable scene with such a sense of immediacy that the viewer may feel as if they are in the canoe with the shark caller.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer 'Special power' from the documentary The Sharkcallers of Kontu as a high quality video download.

To play the downloadable video, you need QuickTime 7.0, VLC, or similar.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before downloading the clip:

australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

This clip is available in the following configurations:

File nameSizeQualitySuitability
sharkcal1_pr.mp4 Large: 23.6MB High Optimised for full-screen display on a fast computer.
sharkcal1_bb.mp4 Medium: 11.1MB Medium Can be displayed full screen. Also suitable for video iPods.

Right-click on the links above to download video files to your computer.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer this clip in an embeddable format for personal or non-commercial educational use in full form on your own website or your own blog.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before embedding the clip:

australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

Copy and paste the following code into your own web page to embed this clip: