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Stori Tumbuna: Ancestors' Tales

Stori Tumbuna: Ancestors’ Tales is a feature length ethnographic documentary produced over ten years.

The film is based in the remote region of Southern New Ireland, Papua New Guinea and focuses on the lives, culture and mythologies of the Lak people. The region has no permanent roads, no power, water supply and little in the way of public services. Communication is difficult throughout Southern New Ireland and children must travel out of the region for their education. Like most self-sufficient rain forest communities the Lak have had few opportunities to present themselves to the rest of the world. This film is a collaboration between people of the Lak region and Paul Wolffram, an ethnomusicologist who lived in the region for over two years.

Stori Tumbuna: Ancestors’ Tales was conceived as an opportunity for the Lak to tell their stories in their way. The film was shot over two years and takes its structure from the traditional mythologies of the region. Unlike most films based on the lives of traditional communities that are told from the point of view of an outsider this film adopts indigenous narrative structures and presents a collaborative account that privileges local points of view and the Lak ethos.

“This is a story of the Lak people. It‘s also a story of how I came to know the people of the region and how my story became forever woven into their own… I was to become enmeshed in events that resulted in bloodshed and death.  What’s more, I was held responsible.”

In 2001 Paul Wolffram, a cultural researcher, travelled to one of the most isolated and unique corners of the earth. He eventually spent over two years living and working among the Lak people in the rainforest of Papua New Guinea. As his relationships with the people grew he began to glimpse a hidden reality, a dark and menacing history that loomed over his host community. Over time the sense that something is amiss grows. As his curiosity deepens Paul brings to light dark secrets that set in motion a compelling and deadly set of events.

I know of no more successful or ingenious film that draws the viewer into another life-world while keeping faith with the tenor of its traditional narratives and respecting the lived experience of his/her interlocutors.“

Michael Jackson    Harvard University


Colour Grading: Mat Fraser at Sauce Media

All music recorded in Southern New Ireland Papua New Guinea. All field recordings by Paul Wolffram

Sound Design & Audio Mastering: Bernard Blackburn at Refried Audio

Producer, Director, Cinematographer, Editor: Paul Wolffram