Anthropology Review: “First Contact”

First Contact” on colonialism of native New Guineans

By Crystal Hollis | Fall 2010 | ANTH 1150 World Cultures Through Film

First Contact reflects on a culture clash as colonialists exert control and dominate over an indigenous population to gain control over natural resources. Colonialism is defined as the active possession of a foreign territory and the maintenance of political and economic domination over the territory. The Australian Leahy brothers’ control over the native New Guineans is an example of a classic colonialism that is made by a private, non-governmental authority.

At first the New Guineans thought that the Leahy brothers were their ancestors who came back to haunt them, a similar conclusion that the Papua New Guineans from Cannibal Tours had originally made. The native New Guineans were a non-nomadic, tribal type society located in the isolated area north of Australia. Because the tribe have never experienced lineal change, they weren’t able to cope with the new experience under the Leahy brothers’ imperialistic control. The tribes used to be harmonious until the Leahy brothers killed their leader and disturbed their balance. New authority came from the Leahy brothers in the form of fear and intimidation. The brothers exerted their control to make the tribes work as slaves in dehumanizing conditions.

The reason why the Leahy brothers explored the region was because they were looking for an economic opportunity to prospect gold. They found convenience at having the natives do labor, taking an unfair advantage over them by paying with sea shells (which can be easily picked up on the beach). The natives were intimidated by technologies they couldn’t understand such as the airplane, gramophone, and guns. The natives were so isolated from the rest of the world they had no idea that there were more people out in the world beyond them. But as time passed by and the natives observed the white men further, they realized that the white men were human just like them. Some remarked that the skin is different but they “sh*t the same” and the women knew how human they were from having sex and giving birth to mixed children.

The film First Contact shows how White Colonialism brings an emotionally traumatizing, destructive and unbalanced change to native cultures and indigenous people. The native New Guineans were unable to adapt to the new changes as the dominant Leahy brothers from a market-ruling early modern culture become the authority. Even when they realized that the Leahy brothers were exploiting them, the natives were still unable to compete and catch up with the rest of the globalized society.

Watch the entire documentary with transcript:



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