Set in the South Pacific, in a remote Solomon Islands village, SINCE THE COMPANY CAME is the story of a community coming to terms with social, cultural and ecological disintegration.
When village leaders invite a Malaysian company to log their tribal land, the Haporai people of Rendova Island in the Solomon Islands find themselves at a difficult crossroads. Most of the men embrace the chance to earn money and participate in the modern economy; many of the women are more concerned with preserving the forests and traditions that sustain their families.
At a village meeting, Chief Mark Lamberi calls into question the tribe's finances, only to find himself the target of furious accusations from the new 'big man' of the community and Chairman of the logging project, Timothy Zama. The community is embroiled in conflicts over land ownership and logging royalties, conflicts that threaten the very core of their traditional social values.
Mary Bea and Katy Soapi are two village women who are desperate to stop the logging before it destroys their land. Although women are custodians of land according to matrilineal tradition, their power is severely diminished. Forests have become a source of money, and money is the domain of men. Mary tells us: "Men don't want to hear anything from women, but we women are actually the centre of life in our village."
As Rendova's forest rapidly disappears, the loggers turn to Tetepare, a nearby, pristine island held sacred by the villagers.
Evocative archival footage from the 1920's provides an insight into Solomon Islands' colonial experience, and raises questions about the ongoing legacy of colonialism. We witness the ongoing disruption of their land and society, and see those same forces at work internally within the people themselves, even to this day.
"Russell Hawkins portrays a village community on the Solomon Islands. The inhabitants are confronted with social, ecological and economic problems caused by a Malaysian timber company. The author brings key conflicts out into the light - conflicts between those who want to go on leading a traditional life and those willing to trade in nature for money. As an author and photographer, Russell Hawkins succeeds in capturing the discord within this society, whilst displaying great respect and sensitivity towards the village dwellers."—Jury of the Freiburg Film Festival
Award of Commendation, Society for Visual Anthropology (2001)
2001 American Anthropological Association Film Festival
2002 Association for Asian Studies Film Festival
Promotional Prize, 2000 Freiburg Film Festival
International Independent Award, 2001 North-South Media Festival (Switzerland)
2001 Amnesty International Film Festival
2001 Planet in Focus, Toronto Environmental Film and Video Festival
2001 Bilan du Film Ethnographique (Paris)
2001 Pärnu International Anthropology Film Festival (Estonia)
"Graphically illustrates the Solomon Islanders' continuing dilemma, which the country is currently living and fighting over... [An] insight into the whys and wherefores of the Solomon's recent slide to economic and social collapse."—The Contemporary Pacific
"The film has significant pedagogical value in anthropological, ecological, and economic instruction... The cinematography lends a sense of realism and sensitivity to the film. Guided only by visual imagery and indigenous voices, (the film goes) beyond western representations of global processes and faces (the viewer) with actual human impacts, illustrating the ongoing legacy of colonialism. We come to see that the manner of exploitation, which plays on vulnerabilities within traditional societies to the pressures and promises of westernization, has not changed much in the last century."—Keith Prufer, Dept. of Anthropology, Auburn University, for Anthropology Review Database