Monday 31 October 2022

(FREE) at the Italian Institute of Culture - A roundtable on The Cinema of Pier Paolo Pasolini: poetry, politics, provocation + THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW

Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered almost half a century ago. His output was astonishing, profound, and prolific: poetry, novels, essays (some on cinema itself), scripts, acting, theatre, journalism and filmmaking, all marked by a powerful political engagement. He made 13 features, episodes for four omnibus films and many documentary essays. His films provide insights into his own life: his origins, his sexuality, and his politics. They are films that have hardly aged, still engaging hearts and minds through their artful attention to day-to-day politics, personal values and how we lead our lives. Pasolini’s body of work is matchless.

Along with the celebrations for the centenary of his birth and, specifically, the retrospective dedicated to him to be held at the Cinema Ritz in Randwick, the Italian Cultural Institute in Sydney (co-organizer of the aforementioned retrospective) is pleased to invite you to a round table entitled The Cinema of Pier Paolo Pasolini: poetry, politics, provocation. The event is organized in collaboration with Cinema Reborn.

We have invited the following speakers from a range of filmic and cultural interests, all passionate about Pasolini’s art, to share their thoughts and ideas about his films, politics and poetry:

  • Lauren Aimee Curtis is the author of Dolores, which was shortlisted for the Readings Prize, the UTS Glenda Adams Award, and was chosen as a New Statesman ‘Book of the Year.’ Her fiction and essays have appeared in Granta, The White Review, Sydney Review of Books, Fireflies, and elsewhere.
  • Bruce Isaacs, Associate Professor (University of Sydney), is interested in a wide range of cinema topics including film aesthetics and style, critical approaches to film production and film and popular culture. He regularly posts cinema articles online – 'The Great Movie Scenes' and 'Close-up' – on The Conversation website.
  • Susanna Scarpara: Building upon her interest in Italian and Comparative Literature,pasolini seduto Susanna has written on a range of film and cultural topics with a focus on Italian and women’s cinema. She is Professor and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Life) at the University of Sydney.
  • James Vaughan is a Sydney-based filmmaker. His debut feature, Friends and Strangers (2021) was the first Australian film to premiere in the International Film Festival Rotterdam's Tiger Competition and was named in Sight & Sound's annual critics' poll as one of the 50 best films of 2021.

Chair: With a production background in journalism, television and documentary, Jane Mills has written and broadcast widely on cinema, screen literacy, censorship and feminism. She is Hon. A/Professor (UNSW), Sydney Film Festival Advisory Panel member and a programmer for Antenna Documentary Festival.

Free entry. Limited seats.

Booking essential:

It will be also possible to follow the roundtable at the following Zoom link: 


Date: Friday, November 04, 2022

Time: At 6:00 pm

Organized by : Istituto Italiano di Cultura 

In collaboration with : Cinema Reborn 

Entrance : Free 


Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Level 4, 125 York Str

AND.... there's still more Pasolini at the Randwick Ritz. This week his masterpiece THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW. Details if you click here

Saturday 29 October 2022

Sixty Years of International Art Cinema - Bruce Hodsdon continues his series - 6 (3) ‘New York’ filmmakers: Elia Kazan and Shirley Clarke

The series on the 60 years international of art cinema 1960-2020 by Bruce Hodsdon continues with thoughts on New York film-makers

These notes are accompanied by a set of summary table and decadal lists of art film directors 1970-2020 (click to link)  which contain 5 lists 1970-2020 including a list of women art film directors over the full 60 years from 1960),  



Shirley Clarke

Elia Kazan

Kazan and Kubrick, (who will feature in the next essay), with their filmmaking origins in New York, like John Cassavetes, retained the spirit of independence within the framework of the new Hollywood while Shirley Clarke remained an integral part of the New York film scene.



One impediment of ageing I’ve noticed is how quickly a recollection, even of a positive viewing experience, can seem to fade or simply be pushed off the mindscreen and requiring prompts . My clearest recollections are of my earliest experiences of going to the movies or of landmark films through childhood into my teenage years. Three Kazan directed films I count among the latter were given the primary impact by the on-screen presence and performances of Marlon Brando beginning for me with Viva Zapata(1952) at age 13 and in the following three years, On the Waterfront (1954) and James Dean in a performance perfectly capturing the zeitgeist of a changing audience in East of Eden (1955). Brando fired in the role of Emiliano Zapata as the leader in the demand for land rights for the peasantry in the Mexican Revolution 1910-20, played then as only the young Brando could do, in taking a stand for the New York longshoremen so regaining his dignity by informing on corruption in On the Waterfront (1954)*.Although I couldn’t have articulated it as such back then, I was experiencing for the first timesomething fundamentally political, a nascent sense of the perplexities of revolution being dramatised on the screen. This was really encapsulated for me in the cross currents generated with Brando in two supporting roles: that of Joseph Wiseman as Fernando, a rootless revolutionary seeking power not reform, “a premature Stalinist” as Schickel describes him, and the powerfully staged assassination of the liberal Madero played with the anxious hand rubbing of a temporiser by Harold Gordon. Stripped of his presidential powers and under house arrest leads him up a blind alley in the hope of negotiation, to his murder by a menacing crypto-fascist general. When Zapata finally got power he didn’t know how to exercise it.It started corrupting those around him, like his brother (Anthony Quinn), and he found himself being corrupted. (BH)

Julie Harris, James Dean, East of Eden

Rod Steiger, Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront

Marlon Brando, Viva Zapata


While notably collaborative, especially with actors, Elia Kazan (1909-2003) came to describe himself as “a believer in the dominance of one person [the director] who has the vision” (American Film interview March 76). As Michel Ciment puts it, “if Griffith and Ford are the ultimate references to the classical Hollywood cinema, it can be contended that Welles and Kazan ... [were] the most disruptive forces in modern American cinema. Few directors of the younger generation would deny Kazan's influence on their work”  (MC 9). 


Dana Andrews, Boomerang

While the extent of the direct influence of the Method on screen acting is debatable there is little doubt of its place in the in the epoch-changing shift towards greater naturalism in acting styles on stage and screen in the fifties and sixties. Kazan played a major role as a path-breaking director in the Group Theatre and co-founder of the influential Actor's Studio in New York in 1947.  Jonathan Rosenbaum comments “that as the principal liaison between the students and techniques of the Actors' Studio and the American cinema, Kazan's contributions and influence were decisive; apart from 'discovering' James Dean, Zohra Lampert, Jack Palance, Lee Remick and Jo Van Fleet, among many others, he directed some of the best performances ever recorded on film” (Rosenbaum  538).  Kazan set new standards in location shooting within the South and in his classy thrillers Boomerang (1947) and Panic in the Streets (1950). He also broke new ground in the handling of contemporary themes such as the interrelationship between the individual and the collective, linking his personal evolution to the history of America and the American Dream. Kazan sustained his commitment towards independent production and in writing his own work, setting standards for personal creativity.


Jeanne Crain, Ethel Waters, Pinky

His film career falls into three chronological segments characterised by an increasingly “personal type” of expression which, in his book on Kazan, Roger Tailleur labelled him respectively as “HE” (up to Pinky 1949), “YOU” (from Panic in theStreets 50 to On the Waterfront 54), and “I” (the subsequent films from East of Eden 55) (quoted Coursodon 161). This seems appropriate for a cyclical creator like Kazan who was chronically dissatisfied with his work, like his heroes turning his back on the past and always forging ahead in new directions. Each new phase “was marked by the conquest of a larger slice of the autonomy he needed to express himself more fully. After Pinky he broke away from the confinement of studio work and what he viewed as the crippling adherence to pre-written scripts. After the triumph of On the Waterfront, he was able to become his own producer, to select his material and collaborate on the scripts, finally with two semi-autobiographical pictures based on his own novels, America America  and The Arrangement, he reached the status of complete auteur 

Stathis Giallelis, America, America


America, America/The Anatolian Smile (1963), Kazan's most passionately personal film, is too often undervalued. It marks the fulfilment of his notion of “total authorship,” turning away from the stage and devoting himself to writing. It is the first film he wrote himself and was also based on his own novel dealing with a story of his family, his uncle's struggle for survival in pursuit of his American dream, gathering together all the main themes of Kazan's work. In assuming total control he was taking on the risks and difficulties of filming in unfamiliar locations.


Adrian Danks in his review of America America published in 'Senses of Cinema' Annotations, notes how “Kazan points the way towards a fruitful and committed combination of the old influences and the seemingly freer terrain of a truly modern cinema. Kazan's film also pointed back to the influence of the Soviet montage cinema of Sergei Eisenstein and Alexander Dovzhenko, and such breakthrough directors as Roberto Rossellini, a central figure in the fusion of fact and fiction, and whose key film Paisa (1946) is directly and bravely referenced in one of America America's most shocking moments as the bodies of failed revolutionaries are thrown into the sea. America, America keenly reflects Kazan's own influences across American and European cinema...highlighting how to integrate and present such cinephilic allegiances and touchstones.”


Faye Dunaway, Kirk Douglas, The Arrangement

Kazan's The Arrangement (1969), a film based on his novel, “is both an echo and an ironic commentary” on America, America (Coursodon).  It also turns the American trilogy” (East of Eden56, Wild River 60, and Splendor in the Grass 61) into a tetrology by adding a disenchanted view of a man obsessed only with material success. 


Drawing on Gilles Deleuze, Richard Rushton finds an over-determining anxiety in Kazan's films which centres on trying to ever more clearly define the American Dream in his work through the unprecedentedly intense transformation of the initial situation with certain actions by the hero resulting in a new situation, filling the gap by changing or modifying that initial situation (Cinema After Deleuze 36).


Kazan acknowledged that The Arrangement(1969) was unusual in that it deals directly with a “successful American” to raise issues of social and psychoanalytical criticism, and has to do with the past, the worth, the nature of America.”  It attempts to do this, Kazan explains, without resorting to metaphor such as using the western to make a film about Vietnam, a means of inserting social issues into a genre framework or what Kazan called “substitute pictures.” His later films from Splendor in the Grassto Wild River, America, Americaand The Arrangement, were appreciated in Europe more than in America.  


The Arrangement published in 1967 was Kazan’s first novel to become a best seller. In it he writes about “my mother, my father, my youth, elements in my own life motivated by wishing to speak about my extensive psychoanalysis.” For Kazan “Eddie Anderson (Kirk Douglas) in The Arrangementgave up his soul [for material success] just as his uncle Stavros [in America America] did. The story of The Arrangementis how he gets it back.” 

The film did not repeat the book’s critical and commercial success.  Kazan appeared satisfied with it in Ciment’s book length interview recorded in 1971. Subsequently when its critical and commercial failure were fully apparent, over the best part of the next two decades which were not good times for Kazan, he did not want to talk about it with Richard Schickel. Kazan finally admitted that he should not have written the screenplay himself. Most of all was Brando’s late refusal of the lead role and for Kazan the unsuitability of Kirk Douglas for the role and other casting mistakes. To Schickel its failure which pretty much ended Kazan’s mainstream film career, came across as little more than a cashing in on the novel “hitting us where we no longer were” (428).


Without referring to it as an “art film”, in the Hollywood context Thomas Elsaesser saw The Arrangementas an “example of a film that tries to confront the problem of 'the unmotivated hero’…Yet the film's analytic and reflective mode of narration,” Elsaesser continues, “remains unsatisfactory because Kazan cannot resolve the aesthetic problem of still wanting to find a principle of unity which would hold the film together on the level of motivation,” adding, “that much the same could be said of Arthur Penn's Mickey One.” 


* Kazan acknowledged in his autobiography, My Life,that there was an analogy between Terry Malloy’s informing and his own (and the film’s scriptwriter Budd Schulberg’s) testimonies to the HUAC acknowledging that there was nothing in his life “about which I feel more ambivalence” (Ciment 83). Kazan claimed that informing was not the driving force behind the film, the main theme is about  the redemption of  “a young man who has let his dignity slip away, regains it.” According to Schickel “Schulberg swears that he and Kazan never discussed their informing while working on the screenplay” (283-4) 


Jean-Pierre Coursodon, “Elia Kazan” American Directors vol 2 1983 

Michel Ciment  Kazan on Kazan 1973 

Adrian Danks “Elia Kazan and America, America”  Annotations on Film in Senses of Cinema  Mar. 2012 

Jonathan Rosenbaum,  Cinema : A Critical Dictionary   ed. Richard Roud  vol. 1 1980 pp.536-42 

Thomas Elsaesser, “Why Hollywood?” in The Persistence of Hollywood 2012 pp. 93-4 

Richard Schickel  Elia Kazan 2006 

Richard Rushton  “Kazan and the American Dream”  Cinema After Deleuze  2012  pp.36-40


Shirley Clarke filming The Connection

Shirley Clarke(1919-97), Maya Deren and Yvonne Rainer, were all dancers before they were filmmakers and this is reflected in their films. Clarke was a leading figure in the New York film scene in the 60s and the 70s with Jonas Mekas co-founding the New York Filmmakers Coop in 1962.  Clarke began making short films in 1953 experimenting with editing to choreograph cinematic space and rhythm. To create a “cine-dance” (a term she didn't particularly like) she spoke of using the special abilities of the movie camera to create a new kind of dance in which she also used the natural movement of people, what she called “the dance of life.” This was important in working with actors on her two feature films. She compared the mass audience for Astaire-Kelly and Richard Lester's Beatles dance films with a limited but dedicated audience for ballet and modern dance which was essentially also the audience for cine-dance. Nevertheless she acknowledged that she had more audience in six months for her first cine-dance than she had for her whole career as a live performer. Widely regarded as her masterpiece is Bridges Go Round (1959) “the most widely seen example of a cinematic Abstract Expressionism in the 50s...utilising editing strategies, camera choreography, and colour tints to turn naturalistic objects into a poem of dancing abstract elements.” (Rabinovitz) 


Bridges Go Round

Clarke worked on documentaries with D A Pennebaker and Richard Leacock and was influenced by the then developing style of cinema verité (called 'direct cinema' in the US) which she then adapted in her two feature films The Connection (1962) set in the world of drug addiction, and The Cool World (1961), dramatising without the then obligatory moralising, a story of black street gangs filmed on location in the streets of Harlem. In their realism both films broke new ground in independent low budget New York filmmaking. In The Cool World Clarke successfully challenged the New York State's censorship laws. In the style of both films she spoke of combining direct cinema methods with the rhythm and editing which she said was recognised as “my beat.”

Yolanda Rodrigues, Carl Lee, The Cool World


Lauren Rabinowitz “Shirley Clarke” entry in Directors International Dictionary ed. Christopher Lyon 1984 Gretchen Berg  “ Interview with Shirley Clarke” Film Culture44  Spring 1967 


Previous entries in this series can be found if you click the following links

Part One - Introduction

Part Two - Defining Art Cinema

Part Three - From Classicism to Modernism

Part Four - Authorship and Narrative

Part Five - International Film Guide Directors of the Year, The Sight and Sound World Poll, Art-Horror

Part Six (1) - The Sixties, the United States and Orson Welles

Part Six (2) - Hitchcock, Romero and Art-Horror

Wednesday 26 October 2022

PASOLINI AT THE RANDWICK RITZ - A genuinely rare screening of one of his earliest films LOVE MEETINGS (1964) 4.00pm Sunday 30 October

Possibly the first ever, and maybe the only ever, Sydney screening of this remarkable feature length documentary. 

Microphone in hand, Pier Paolo Pasolini asks Italians to talk about sex: he asks children where babies come from, young and old women if they are men's equals, men and women if a woman's virginity matters, how they view homosexuals, how sex and honor connect, if divorce should be legal, and if they support closing the brothels (the Merlina Act). He periodically checks in with Alberto Moravia and Cesare Musatti. Bersani is intrusive and judgemental, prodding those who answer.

Film will be introduced by Jessica Ellicott, a film critic and programmer at Golden Age Cinema & Bar. Her writing on film has featured in The Big Issue, SBS Movies, Runway Journal and 4:3. Jessica’s experience in the film industry spans independent distribution, festivals and media, gained across roles at Transmission Films, SBS Movies and Sydney Film Festival.

Bookings and session information

Tuesday 25 October 2022

THE CINEMA OF IDEAS - Tony Rayns in a Free Online Conversation - 6pm-7pm (GMT) Wednesday 2 November

By Popular Demand a third conversation with the British, critic, commentator, film-maker and programmer in the remarkable series presented by the UK Independent Cinema Office 

A blue graphic with black text at the top which reads: ICO The Cinema of Ideas. A photo underneath shows an older man with round glasses smiling. He wears a brown shirt and a navy sleeveless jacket, and stands against a brown background.

Tony Rayns in Conversation: Part Three

After the success of the first two instalments, Tony Rayns returns to the Cinema of Ideas to continue his absorbing conversation with Simon Ward, sharing rare insights and stories about his influential career at the cutting edge of independent cinema.

In Part Three the conversation will focus on Tony’s engagement with contemporary East Asian cinema, touching upon the work of some of the region’s most-acclaimed filmmakers over the last three decades, including Wong Kar-wai (Hong Kong), Jia Zhangke (China), Takeshi Kitano (Japan) and Bong Joon-ho (South Korea).

Ahead of the discussion, you can catch up with recordings of our previous conversations with Tony on our 
YouTube channel.

This event is free and available worldwide.

Book your place

Sunday 23 October 2022

Brisbane's (maybe Australia's) First Ever Film Noir Festival - Joel Archer writes about his newest project

Bri, Michael and I are getting so excited to be hosting Brisbane's First Ever Film Noir Festival

7 Iconic Films over 2 Days, Vintage Fashion Displays, Q&A's and much more.
Whether you are in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast or anywhere this will be such a fun and unique Film Festival at the lovely Hamilton Town Hall near the Brisbane River.
Tickets are on Sale Now and great rewards and incentives for those who purchase Festival Pass:

Here's the program

Noir November: Romance from the Gutters will be screening 7 thrilling films over two days in the stunning Hamilton Town Hall. Festival Passes come with special privileges' and access to the below 7 masterpieces 

Sat 12/11/22 3pm Gun Crazy (1950)

Sat 12/11/22 Opening Night 7pm Double Indemnity (1944)

Sat 12/11/22 9:30pm Cry Danger (1951)

Sun 13/11/22 10:30am Too Late for Tears (1949) 

Sun 13/11/22 12:30pm Gilda (1946)

Sun 13/11/22 4pm Out of the Past (1947)

Sun 13/11/22 Closing Night 6:30pm Sunset Blvd (1950)


Thursday 20 October 2022

Rod Bishop concludes his report on the production of a documentary in Papua New Guinea - MATAUNGAN (7) - THE ASIO FILES

Editor's Note: At the foot of this post are links to the six previous entries on Film Alert 101 devoted to THE MATAUNGAN FILM

The Story so far:

In January 1971, a film crew from La Trobe University went to Rabaul, Papua New Guinea to shoot a documentary on the Mataungan Association: a grass-roots Tolai movement seeking both self-determination and the return of land taken from them by German and Australian plantation owners. 

The crew had been hastily assembled, needing to be in PNG for the trial of 13 Tolais charged with the murder of the District Commissioner Jack Emanuel.

The crew were led by the La Trobe academic Heinz Schütte and consisted of Peter Beilby, Chris O’Nial and Rod Bishop. At the end of the shoot, in late February 1972, the footage and equipment were divided between Bishop and the cinematographer O’Nial for the return to Melbourne. 

The film crew never saw Chris O’Nial again. 

He disappeared, taking a substantial amount of exposed Mataungan footage, a 16mm Beaulieu camera and the proceeds of the sale of the truck used by the crew. Back in Melbourne, Schütte contacted O’Nial’s mother: “indeed she was quite off-putting, if not hostile” and decidedly evasive about her son’s whereabouts. 

The remaining footage was edited, but too much was missing and a coherent documentary could not be made. The only surviving copy of this 40-minute, unfinished double-head version of Mataungan was telecined by Rod Bishop in the late 1970s. 

Sometime during the 1980s, and without the knowledge of any of the members of the film crew, the former La Trobe academic, David Jones had all the extant materials of the film stored at La Trobe University sent to him in Pennsylvania. He claims to have destroyed them years later in “an office clean-out”.

40 Years Later

Lisa Hilli came looking for the double-head of Mataungan on behalf of A Bit Na Ta (2017), a museum installation of Tolai history, being put together by artist director David Bridie and others. The two photos below are from A Bit Na Ta. The lower photo is by Gideon Kakabin.

A young French researcher, Solenne Couppe, then requested a copy of the Mataungan double-head for the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris. He asked if he could help locate the missing cameraman and perhaps uncover the fate of the missing footage. 

Schütte, Couppe and Bishop decided to request ASIO files for the crew and also for the late David Jones, the La Trobe academic who had been listed as part of the original film project, but was replaced by Rod Bishop before the shoot.

ASIO will not release the names of ASIO employees, ASIO informers or anything that reveals ASIO operations. Such material is redacted before the files are released or simply not released as all. 

“Smoking gun” information was not expected, but it was thought the released files might contain other indications of malfeasance by the Australian security services.

The ASIO Files

The files for the members of the Mataungan crew were eventually released, although sections were redacted and some pages withheld entirely. The released material is now accessible as “open access” through the National Archives of Australia website.


Rod Bishop ASIO file

The first to be released, it consisted of four surveillance photographs of Bishop departing Jacksons Airport in Rabaul in February 1972 and a further two of Bishop during a Mataungan Association march.

Rod Bishop (r) at Jacksons Airport, Port Moresby, 1972,
(Ph: ASIO file)

An accompanying letter said the rest of the file had been “destroyed on the 26 November 2003…as it was a testing file”. No explanation of what a “testing file” might be was forthcoming. 

It was interesting, however, to see the inconsistency of Chris O’Nial’s name on the ASIO surveillance photos. When typed it was identical to his passport name “Christopher O’Nial”, but when handwritten on the photos by the ASIO photographer, it was “Chris”.

Even more valuable was confirmation of the correct spelling of O’Nial’s last name. Most of the crew thought it might have been O’Neal or O’Nile or O’Neill. The photo below identifies and marks an Unknown person, Rod Bishop, Peter Beilby, Chris O'Nial and  Heinz Schutte (partly hidden at rear).

Finding Chris O’Nial

Waiting for the remaining ASIO files – they take up to 12 months to be processed – and with the correct spelling of O’Nial’s name, Bishop and Couppe took to social media in search of the missing cameraman, and perhaps the stolen footage. 

On a blogspot called “rbsailing”, Bishop located a photograph of O’Nial sailing in competition in Mikrolimano, Greece in 1982. O’Nial’s name also cropped up in a few European yachting magazines as a Greece-based naval architect and sailor. Luckily, O’Nial is not a common name and Couppe’s further Facebook searches located O’Nial’s now adult son and daughter.

Couppe contacted the daughter in France and, in turn, she put him in contact with her brother. They were brought up in Greece, their father died in 1999 and their mother had died “ten years ago”. They knew nothing of their father’s past in Australia, knowing him only as a naval architect and sailor in Greece.

David Jones ASIO file

ASIO had no file. 

Heinz Schütte ASIO file

His first file consists of 180 pages of written surveillance material, including surveillance photos at Jacksons Airport in Port Moresby. The second file consists of surveillance photos of Schütte during the Mataungan Association march. The photo below is the best ASIO picture of Heinz. It was taken surreptitiously at Port Moresby's Jacksons Airport.

There are blacked-out redactions throughout and some pages were not released.

Schütte’s 180-page file contains a plethora of surveillance material of the academic in Papua New Guinea and in Australia.

The following comments relate only to the material surrounding the Mataungan film shoot.

A ‘reliable, delicately place source’.

Several times, the documents make direct reference to a source or sources: “Information from a reliable, though delicately placed source” (page 26); “a delicate and reliable source” (page 35); and “a delicately placed source” (page 40), pointing to someone or some persons Schütte, and perhaps the crew, knew. At one point “the delicate source” is able to access the unionist and activist Max Ogden’s diary and bank account details while he was in PNG.

John Kaputin in the Schütte file

Many Tolais had input into the film shoot, some were given ‘familiarization’ training with the film gear and the balance between the politics of the Mataungan Association and various aspects of Tolai culture was discussed at length.

Several leading figures in the Mataungan Association also provided advice to the film crew, but they are only mentioned in passing in this ASIO file. One such MA leader is John Kaputin, later Sir John Kaputin, Minister for Finance and Foreign Minister in the PNG government. In Schütte’s file, the only mention of this important figure in PNG politics relates to Kaputin’s “intimate activities”.

ASIO: [Name withheld by this writer] was born 11 March 1952 arrived in Port Moresby from Cairns…[She] came to notice in Rabaul on 1 February 1972 when she was reported to have attended a social function with John KAPUTIN and members of Heinrich Wilhelm SCHUTTE’s film team. KAPUTIN and [she] were reported to have “retired to a bedroom for intimate activity probably for the remainder of the night”.

ASIO: [Name withheld by this writer, but not the person mentioned above] had been reported to have been engaged in an intimate relationship with John KAPUTIN in Rabaul while [the film crew were] absent filming Mataungan Association activities.”

The first report of “intimate activity”, suggests the information may have come from a member of the crew, or those engaged in the aforesaid “intimate activity”. The second “intimate activity”, suggests that information came from someone else.

John Kaputin

The Mataungan film in the Schütte File

In Schütte’s ASIO file, it’s clear the intelligence “heat” was on the film project from the very beginning. Pages 144, 145 and 152 suggest ASIO had the film on its radar even before filming started. 

Those ASIO documents include copies of a funding submission to the Myer Foundation in November 1971 that lists the crew as Schütte, Beilby, David Jones (later replaced by Bishop) and Chris O’Nial. 

ASIO was still chasing the film in October 1972 (pages 45, 46).

On page 118, ASIO reports a conversation from [name withheld by this writer] in which she stated: “following a request from Dr Heinz SCHÜTTE…she had ‘smuggled’ the half-completed film back to Australia”.

Surviving members of the film crew have no recollection of this. There was never any thought the footage needed to be “smuggled” back to Australia. 

(The  ASIO photo below shows the film crew - Peter Beilby (sound), Chris O'Nial (camera) and Heinz Schutte - filming a Mataungan march 

The ‘Return to Rabaul’ in the Schütte file

Correspondence and phone calls between the ASIO Director-General and the ASIO Regional Directors in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Papua New Guinea show concern over the film crew planning to return to Rabaul in August 1972.

This intelligence information appears to have started with the ASIO Regional Director in PNG.

No such “return to Rabaul” ever occurred, and on page 52, what looks like a telex from ASIO Sydney to ASIO Headquarters states they can find no evidence of travel to PNG in August 1972 by those in the film crew.

Chris O’Nial in the Schütte file

Numerous documents suggest ASIO had trouble establishing the identities of the crew - apart from Schütte. There are references to one crew member called “Chris” and one called “Peter”. 

Bishop seems to have been the most elusive of all, probably because he was the last to join the crew and ASIO’s information didn’t include him in the crew up until, and maybe after, December 1971. They don’t seem to know of his involvement until he arrived in Rabaul.

It does seem ASIO gets it all together with the names and short biographies for Bishop, Beilby and O’Nial after the crew has left Rabaul. 

Rod Bishop with camera, Mataungan March Rabaul
(Ph: ASIO file)

One of these 'biographies' is worth considerable attention:

On page 101, an ASIO document states:“CHRIS” is identical with Christopher John O’NIAL, born in Australia 3rdJuly 1945. O’NIAL entered P.N.G on the 13thJanuary 1972. He left Rabaul on the 21stFebruary 1972 and intended to visit WEWAK, LAE and KIETA before travelling to HONIARA, B.S.I.P and the New Hebrides. He plans to return to Melbourne before the 16thMarch 1972 and to visit P.N.G again after spending about eight weeks in Melbourne…”

Written on 8thMarch 1972, how did ASIO have so much more information about O’Nial’s travel movements than anyone on the film crew? No-one on the crew ever saw him again after Rabaul.

The dates for O’Nial’s return to Melbourne, length of stay in Melbourne and plans to return to PNG could only have come directly from Chris O’Nial or perhaps, someone ASIO-related who had spoken with O’Nial.

Taking valuable items of film equipment, cash and a substantial amount of original Mataungan negative with him, O’Nial relocated to Greece where he lived for the rest of his life. He died in 1999. 

Chris O’Nial ASIO file

There are two ASIO files. One is 22 pages of documents and the other is surveillance photographs in Rabaul. 

Among the background briefing letters on O’Nial are his previous conviction records, including car theft, stealing license plates and being sent by the Court to the Alexander Clinic in Melbourne for treatment.

On page 17 there is a letter from the Director of Intelligence ASIO to the Regional Director ASIO in PNG, dated 29thJune 1972, briefing the PNG office on Chris O’Nial. 

This letter is also worth considerable attention.

There are three points listed in the letter. The first two points are completely redacted. The third asks PNG to inform Headquarters if they know of O’Nial’s “whereabouts”. 

The redacted sections (example below from the ASIO files) are 75% of the letter. As previously stated, reasons for redactions in released files include the names of ASIO employees, ASIO informants and ASIO operations.

Chris O’Nial and the production funding of Mataungan

Researcher Solenne Couppe reminded us of the five-page article “MATAUNGAN A Film on ‘Development’ and the Tolai People in Niugini”written by Bishop, Schütte and D.B.Jones [Dave Jones] for the highly respected USA journal Cineaste.

The publication date is mid-1972, during the editing period of Mataungan and before the film was abandoned. In this article the authors write: 

“The crew member providing the most initiative in getting the money raised was the cameraman…who had organizationally done more than most members of the crew to get the project financially underway…It turned out the cameraman was most unsuited for a project of this sort…besides the disappointing camerawork…the unsuitability we suspected the cameraman of was not merely of insufficient competence but also of character. We suspected him of dishonesty and – alas – our suspicions proved justified. He was not only a liar but a thief”.

Although no surviving members of the crew remember O’Nial bringing production funds to the project - this all happened 50 years ago - the Cineaste article was written only months after the shoot and cannot be ignored. 

Presumably, the article was factually checked by the three members of the crew who wrote it. Another person, not associated with the shoot, but who knew all members of the crew - except O’Nial - recollects the cameraman bringing production finance to the project and thinking at the time “he was buying his way in”.

Unlike the ASIO files used in this article, there is little factual material available to retrace the production funding arrangements. We do know $4,000 came the Experimental Film and Television Fund administered by the Australian Film Institute, but where the remaining $7,000 came from has been lost in time and memory.

It does raise an interesting issue, first raised by Solenne Couppe: why would a crew member help arrange for production funding, then steal a significant amount of the exposed footage and make the film unfinishable? 

Other questions that remain:

Why is there such heavy redaction in the letter from ASIO’s Director of Intelligence providing background information to ASIO in PNG about Chris O’Nial? What has ASIO redacted here?

How did ASIO know so much more about O’Nial’s intentions to travel throughout PNG, the New Hebrides and The Solomons after he left Rabaul? No-one on the crew knew this.

Who told ASIO that O’Nial planned “to return to Melbourne before 16thMarch 1972 and visit P.N.G again after spending about eight weeks in Melbourne?” This information was also never shared with the rest of the crew.

After stealing a significant portion of the original negative and cutting off all communication with other members of the crew, what motivated O’Nial to relocate to Greece and start a new life?



You can find  the earlier posts by clicking on these links Mataungan (1)Mataungan (2)Mataungan (3), Mataungan (4)   Mataungan (5)  and Mataungan (6)