Black Harvest charts the progress of Joe Leahy in convincing the Ganiga tribespeople to join him in a coffee growing venture. He provides the money and the expertise; they supply land and labour. But on the eve of success, the world coffee price collapses and tribal warfare erupts in the valley. Always suspect because of his mixed-race status, Joe is in deep trouble with the tribespeople when his promises of riches fail to materialise. As he organises to emigrate with his family to Australia, he is a saddened man with an uncertain future.
This is the classic film of cultural confrontation, as compelling today as when first released more than 20 years ago.
Columbus and Cortez left no visual record of their first contact with the New World, but when Australia's gold prospecting Leahy brothers first penetrated the unexplored New Guinea Highlands in the 1930s, they carried a camera, capturing on film the last great confrontation between two cultures that will ever again take place on Earth. The people they encountered had no concept of human life beyond their valleys. This amazing footage forms the basis of First Contact, along with eyewitness testimony from the surviving participants, white and black.
First Contact is one of those rare films that holds an audience spellbound. Humour and pathos are combined in this classic story of colonialism, told by the people who were there.
Joe Leahy's Neighbours
The follow up to First Contact, this film traces the fortunes of Joe Leahy, mixed-race son of Australian explorer Michael Leahy and a highland woman, and follows his uneasy relationship with his tribal neighbours, the Ganiga.
Joe built his coffee plantation on land bought from the Ganiga in the mid 1970s. Raised in the village but educated by the colonial whites, Joe has his feet in two cultural camps. While he may live in Western grandeur, he is still surrounded by his subsistence level Ganiga 'neighbours' who never let him forget the original source of his prosperity. Joe spends much of his waking hours just keeping the lid on things.
Filmmakers Connolly and Anderson lived for eighteen months on the edge of Joe's plantation, in the 'No Man's Land' between Leahy and the Ganiga. Their lively, non-judgemental narrative film eloquently captures the conflicting values of tribalism and capitalism.