Hill-Smith’s Dangerous Vintage

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Controversial Documentary to play at Barossa Film Festival

The Hill-Smith name is synonymous in the Barossa valley and around the world with excellent wine, but at the inaugural Barossa Film Festival 2011; it’s film, not wine on offer.

Charlie Hill-Smith is the great, great grandson of Yalumba Wines founder Sidney Smith (1849), and he’s heading back to the Barossa to screen his award winning documentary, Strangebirds in Paradise – A West Papuan Story.

In 1999 with a small band of hiking companions Hill-Smith blithely stumbled into West Papua from Papua New Guinea. Hill-Smith says, ‘I had lived and traveled around Indonesia for over 15 years at that stage and had never heard traveler’s tales, media stories, nor any accounts from this giant, forested province. The place was secret and for good reason.’

With a long held, deep affection for Indonesia, its culture and people, director Charlie Hill-Smith, was deeply disturbed by the tales of exile that he heard from West Papuan refugees in Australia and decided to return to West Papua to find out more about this hidden land.

What he discovered was an extraordinary story of an imaginative, adaptable culture confronting tyranny with the joyful power of art, music and self-expression. Charlie records the fate of West Papuans trying to maintain village life whilst adapting to the Indonesian economy. He visits the battered, pitiful resistance and the refugee camps along the Papua New Guinean border. Journalists and filmmakers have been banned from West Papua for many years. Strange Birds In Paradise offers a rare view into this beautiful but tragic place.

“The Indonesian army and ‘old-power’ in Jakarta don’t want this story to be told. They run West Papua as a personal fiefdom, stripping the forests and the gold and the oil. The powers-that-be want to keep this window closed to the outside world,” observed Hill-Smith.

Ultimately, Charlie is inspired to blend his own journey of discovery and adventure to film an inspiring concert at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall (included in the documentary). A moving tribute that brings together the exiled community in Australia for a moment of defiant celebration and joy through their unique blend of music, dance and enormous courage.

For anyone who wants to learn the truth about West Papua and its oppressed people, Strangebirds in Paradise – A West Papuan Story, is an absolute, must see.

While the Indonesian army continues to dominate the indigenous inhabitants of West Papua, Australian and Papuan friends gather in Melbourne to record outlawed folk songs with renowned rock musicologist David Bridie. This compelling Australian documentary Strange Birds in Paradise, premiered at the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA) 2009, was nominated for 4 Australian Film Industry awards and won the SBS Inside Film Award for best documentary 2010.

A concise and moving portrait that fills in the complex history and modern story of West Papua and puts this human rights disaster on the world map.

The amazing soundtrack to Strangebirds in Paradise has been nominated for an Australian Record Industry award 2011. To sample the glorious Melanesian music visit – HYPERLINK “http://www.wantokmusik.org/albums_strangebirds.htm” http://www.wantokmusik.org/albums_strangebirds.htm