Through the PACMAS Innovation Fund, Slone Fred and Island Sun Pictures were able to film ‘The Last New Hebrideans’, a series of documentary with 10 episodes and a duration of 21 minutes each. The title used in this documentary The Last New Hebrideans is used to portray the life these mountain people have been living during the colonial era and even after over 30 years of Independence.
The Last New Hebrideans is a series of documentaries featuring the mountain people of South Espiritu Santo through the eyes of Charles Sumbe who is a presenter at a local FM station in Vanuatu.
People from other parts of Vanuatu often assume that people who are still practicing their traditional way of living are happy and that they are living the simple life. In some ways people think that they are preserving their cultures and traditions but within themselves captured in this documentary is the other side of the coin, their reality.
These attitudes have left the government to ignore these people. This was confirmed by Chief Molitamata from Balakovanua village, “since 1980 (Vanuatu gained independence) until today no government worker has ever visited us.”
Even though Chief Molitamata and his people live in the interior of Vanuatu’s largest island they still participate in election voting. Chief Molitamata has to travel to town to prepare their electoral cards before a polling day. Politicians from the coast have to travel up the mountains to do campaigns and people from the mountains confirm that all candidates contesting for past elections never go up to the mountains to do their campaigns but only their teams.
Therefore Chief Molitamata has to deal with the frustration of his people, as they do not know who they were voting for as their voting serves no purpose at all.
“My people are already tired of voting but being the chief of this village I am holding onto everyone’s voting card, so whenever it’s Election Day I have to encourage my people to go to the polling station to vote for the government of this nation. They often ask me, where is the government that we are voting for? I told them we won’t be able to see the government until the government will decide on its own to visit us.”
The lack of service delivery have a huge impact on their lives. Chief Tuilen from Marakai village confirmed that there are cases where pregnant women who can’t deliver their babies up in the mountains die. “For women who are pregnant and cannot deliver their baby with traditional help, we will have to take them to the main road to go to the hospital. Some women die along the way because of the long distance to Namuru village (Main road).”
The documentary team also filmed the South western part of the island in the village of Kerevalis. This village is located about 2 hours walk from the main road. However, they still do not have access to proper infrastructures and health services. The Chief from the village, chief Maliu really wanted the children in his village to be educated so he approached the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu which he saw was the only source of assistance. This lead to a primary school named Ulua primary school established in 2009. The filming crew arrived at the right time as Ulua Primary school was awarding its students before the end of year holiday.
During Chief Maliu’s speech on that day, he asked if they can be recognised as part of Vanuatu. “The church is helping us, but we are still waiting for the government to help us. Because these children belong to the nation of Vanuatu. Not from another country…We are from Vanuatu.”