“Land of the Unexpected” Embraces the Film!

It was May 11th, one day after my arrival into Port Moresby. My body was still trying to make the 17 hour leap to catch up to the bright Papuan sun, while my nerves were already far ahead of me, firing on all levels.  How would the film look on the big screen? How would it be viewed by the very people it is about? And how could I end the cycle of sleepless nights?  With barely enough rest to make up for the 30 plus hours of travel, I was called to the theater to approve the projection.  I’d only seen it on my computer or home television and was not sure of both picture and sound – especially in a theater environment.  But amid any uncertainty was the thrill of good news. Paradise Cinema was moving us to a larger seating capacity because so many people RSVP’d to attend the very first private screening.  Then there was the after-party scheduled at the Crystal Lounge.  The US Ambassador and her staff were coming, as were some of PNG’s most influential politicians and cultural leaders. How would I survive the evening?

Jeffry Feeger, Michele Westmorland and Lynne Ainsworth with Jeffry’s impressive creation “Through Siaka’s Eyes” auctioned at the After-Party event at Crystal Lounge

The completion and addition of the new trailer for the film is now on our website and you are the first to see it!  Thank you, Sandy Jeglum, Chris Julian and Icarus Music for the work to make an inspirational and compelling trailer.  Go to Project Page to watch.

I am pleased to tell you that the warm thrill of a rave will penetrate even the most jetlagged anxieties. Launching the completed film with a private premiere in Port Moresby was the most gratifying return on years of effort. To sit amidst an audience in Papua New Guinea, and to hear and feel the warmth and approval, is everything I have hoped for through this long journey.  Although there have many wonderful testimonials and responses, below are a two that I will share.  There will be more to come through social media!

Catherine Ebert-Gray, U.S. Ambassador to PNG and the Solomon Islands

“Headhunt Revisited is a brilliant retelling of the adventures of American portrait artist, Caroline Mytinger, and her friend, Margaret Warner, who traveled to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to capture portraits of the indigenous peoples. This extraordinary story, which took place in the 1920’s, is another example of how women’s courage, talent, and contributions to history have too often been lost – until someone like Michele Westmorland comes along with the vision and determination to uncover and tell their stories to the world.

Watching Westmorland bring Mytinger and Warner’s journey to life and recreate their travels in modern Melanesia is to relive the joy, danger, difficulty, and sadness of the experience.  As she brings history to life for the descendants of those captured in Mytinger’s moving portraits, many of them who remember the visit through family folklore, she offers viewers an opportunity to peer into a mostly unknown world both past and present.”

Comments from the Audience:

  • “I sat in awe as the story cleverly unfolded – tears of appreciation actually came to my eyes and a lump was in my throat when I expressed my admiration of the documentary to my neighbour in the packed theatre. Michele’s camera lens was not distorted by a foreign Western lens as she followed the epic journey from Caroline Mytinger’s portrait painting expedition of the late 1920s to locate the descendants of her portrait subjects. She does not tell their story but honors and respects them as they tell their story.”
  • Caroline painted portraits through Melanesia and how fortunate and exciting for us who love our Melanesia that there is some history in ‘colour’ through Caroline Mytinger’s paintings.”
  • I have read a little more about Caroline since the Premiere last night, and what I appreciate most, and what was conveyed in your film, is her respect for the cultures she was capturing on film and canvas. She was a woman far ahead of her time, and her courage and authenticity, her unstoppable determination to stay true to herself, is a source of inspiration to me. You embody those same traits, Michele, I think you and Caroline would have been firm friends!”          

The accolades for the film did not stop at the end of the evening.  Invited as a guest along with artist Jeffry Feeger and Rae Smart, Co-Producer Australia, we spoke in an interview with host, Douglas Dimagi, of Talkback Show/FM 100 Radio.                                                                                        

Emmanuel Narokobi, Director of Photography – PNG,  and I also appeared on EMTV’s program, Point of View with host Tania Nugent, and commentators Philma Kelegai and Cleopatra Kolta.  The 48 minute program is available through this link EMTV And do leave your comments at the end! It would be wonderful to have as many people, especially those fans in North America, to support this valuable programming in Papua New Guinea.

Next Steps

The glow of a warm reception on home turf will linger, but there is still much work to be done. Our next crucial task is to invest in getting the film in front of audiences. This means a costly and uncertain period of applying to enter the film festival circuit. Waiting patiently for answers from numerous festivals is not one of my strengths. The entire team is anxious. And because the festival circuit is subjective, one never knows what a festival’s panel will choose. Headhunt Revisited has the distinction of being an untold story of a female American hero. But in the trend toward social justice films, we can only wait to see how a very different sort of story will be received.

Our very own and talented animator, Mahima Tuladhar is designing the Press Kit for any and all distribution requirements. And we will soon invest in targeted Public Relations and Impact strategies to broaden the film’s reach to international audiences. Final tweaks are being done before we can master the film to DVD/BluRay.  If you are inspired to support our final efforts to launch the film, we do have a short window of opportunity to add significant donor/sponsor names to the credit roll.  Please contact me for more information on how to make this happen at michele@westmorlandimages.com or visit the Sponsor-Donate page on this website!

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