Thursday, August 02, 2012

Meet the new Tom Cruise

Paul Janman has been getting so much publicity on so many television and radio stations for his film Tongan Ark that he's in danger of becoming a celebrity. I've taken to calling him Tom Cruise and, rather alarmingly, he's taken to answering to that name. Here's the Tagata Whenua report on Tongan Ark which aired at the weekend.

Rumour has it that yesterday, during the latest of his numerous forays into the studios of Television of New Zealand, Paul - sorry, Tom - bumped into that other recent object of discussion on this blog, Te Radar. Paul apparently held an impromptu debate about the aesthetics and politics of documentary-making with his hirsute rival. I'll be interested to hear how that chat went.


Blogger Paul Janman said...

Hi, Tom here...

Yes, the conversation with Radar was very interesting. It turns out that he is, as I expected, a very nice guy with deep concerns about penguins, global warming, virtually uninhabited atolls and many other things.

On the subject of representations of Pacific island societies in the context of the contemporary TV industry, he was also very concerned.

In the process of creating Radar across the Pacific, he was disappointed that there was some important footage that didn't make it into the series. There was an interview with an historian, for example, on the site of the 'Black Saturday massacre of 28 December 1929, where New Zealand police gunned down 11 and wounded 50 Samoan independence activists.

Although Radar didn't want to say too much about it, I think we agreed that there were some serious questions about why the decision to cut that material was made. Who was pulling the strings here? Was there a feeling that the event had already been covered adequately? I think Scott’s blog entry on the subject would negate that. Or was the Director of the series, Peter Bell, responding to pressure from other directives higher in the food chain?

I told Radar that I was determined to keep our discussions in the realm of objectivity and to steer far away from conflicts of personality or the unfortunate influence of ‘spin’ and dogma. I tried to emphasise that this was necessary if we were to continue our critical discourse, flesh things out and become transparent about what we do as artists, journalists, comedians or whatever.

I also agreed with Radar at this point that kiwi audiences don’t like ‘being told what to think’ and prefer having everything laid out on the table for them to make up their own minds about it.

I felt that I did need to point out, however, that there are largely unseen psychological and political forces at work here.

As the unwitting American philosopher Donald Rumsfeld once said, “there are things that we know, we know… and there are things that we know we don’t know. There are also things that we don’t know that we don’t know…”

I would like to add one more category to this formula, namely that there are things that WE DON’T KNOW THAT WE KNOW. In other words, there are things that influence our decisions to cut this or that interview in a TV series, or make this or that supposedly humorous comment about people living in a polluted ghetto in Tarawa.

On the other hand… sometimes the executives just tell us what to do.

A study of the post global warming ecology of the TV industry would be very interesting indeed. Is there an apocalyptic virus, which seeks out the more strident ideas and shoots them down? Does this happen by a process of osmosis or is it simply a case of chase, kill and eat or be eaten?

How are decisions made? Educate us Peter Bell! You know we went to different schools together!

I also attempted to ply Radar (rather unsuccessfully I think) with ideas that I have picked up over the years from people like the Brazilian theatre Director Pedro Ilgenfritz about ‘poetic indirectness’ or what Tongans call ‘heliaki’. I think such strategies could be very usefully employed in getting more challenging ideas on primetime TV.

The only caveat is that self-awareness, vision and research of the truth already has to be in place before any such strategies will work at all.

9:22 am  

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