Ngat is Dead: Studying Mortuary Traditions

The Dutch anthropologist Ton Otto returns to the Melanesian island Baluan after the death of his adoptive father, Ngat. According to local tradition he has to participate in a mortuary ceremony together with his adopted siblings, but the ceremony, his father wanted him to do, has already been performed. Now Ton has to find out what would be an appropriate next step. It appears that different groups have different perspectives and interests and as a compromise, that also suits his own knowledge interests, Ton suggests that two additional ceremonies are performed. While most people are supportive, some strongly criticise the execution of the ceremonies for not being correct according to Baluan tradition. The film deals with the dilemmas of a participating researcher, who is both social actor and anthropological observer, and gives the viewer a close look at the way Melanesian actors contest and negotiate their social reality: their kin relations, mortuary traditions, and also the participating anthropologists.

The Importance of Being MLABRI

“MLABRI marry MLABRI”. But what will young IDang do, when there are no Mlabri girls around? Chalat is leaving for boarding school. His mother asks: will he ever come back? As a child Chuwit roamed the jungles with his parents. He knows Mlabri life is about to change radically, and he wishes to have a say, but will he get a chance? The Importance of Being Mlabri is a film about the Mlabri, told by themselves in their own language. There are 320 Mlabri people left on this planet. This is a decisive moment in Mlabri history. One generation ago they came out of the jungle in Northern Thailand. The Mlabri used to be hunters and gatherers. For the moment they scrape out a meagre existence at the bottom of society working as day-labourers. Right now they all face the crucial question: How does one adapt to a world full of Outsiders without disappearing?