1982 / 52 minutes

Directed by
Leslie Woodhead
Country of production
United Kingdom
Disappearing World Series

Pierre Miranda and a team from Granada Television have made a fine film exploring the trouble realities of the people of the lagoon in the 1980s. (B. Shore)

This film focuses on the people of Lau lagoon in the Solomon Islands who live on artificial islands near the island of Malaita. These islands are built of coral rubble and the people moved to them in an attempt to escape the dangers of malaria and enemies, and to find better fishing. The film focuses on change and conflict. The concept of ‘custom’ is vital to the islanders’ identity, yet this is being eroded, particularly by Christian missionaries. The conflict between Christian and Pagan now pervades daily life, creating divisions in families and eroding knowledge of traditional life. Two ‘custom’ priests recently committed ritual suicide, one by swimming under a canoe containing women and the other by deliberately making a mistake in a ceremony. Within weeks, both priests physically died. The despair in the ability of ‘custom’ to continue that these priests must have felt is presented visually throughout the film. Few of the islanders remember more than a fraction of the hundreds of traditional spirits and the young are turning more and more to the traditions and commodities of Western culture. This theme is a common one makes it no less powerful or relevant. Spurred by the presence of the Disappearing World camera crew, the islanders built a house in which to store their traditional and ritual objects. A commendable act of preservation on the part of the islanders, but at the same time the implications of their act are saddening. They are taking their ritual things out of the sphere of living, daily tradition and placing them in the realm of objective history.

B. Burt, 1988. Review of the film in Visual Anthropology Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 482–83.

P. Gathercole, 1987. Review of the film. Anthropology Today, Vol. 3, No. 4, p. 20.

P. Maranda, 1987. Correspondence on the film. Anthropology Today, Vol. 3, No. 6, p. 24.

B. Shore, 1989. Review of the film. American Anthropologist, Vol. 91, pp. 275–6.

Language and subtitles
English with English Subtitles
Solomon Islands
Social Change Social Conflict Ritual Death Religion / Belief / Faith

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