Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Storm Boy brings back memories of another day

It was while searching a second-hand shop in Port Moresby for books that I found a real gem.
That book was Storm Boy, written by Australian Colin Theile, and which was later made into a classic Australian film of the same name in 1976.

I immediately pounced on the book as Storm Boy was a movie that touched my heart – and those of so many other children - so many years ago as a child in Lae.

And, indeed, my children enjoyed every minute of me reading the book to them, which just goes to show the timelessness of Storm Boy.

It also brought back so many memories of another day, particularly of the now-extinct movie theatres, which once abounded all over Papua New Guinea.

A whole generation in Papua New Guinea has sadly grown up without knowing the experience of watching movies in a cinema.
In the “happy days” of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, cinemas were commonplace all over the country.

Those of us who grew up in that roaring and memorable period will know the joy of watching films on the big screen.

These days, with the advance of television, video, VCDs, and the Internet, the movie projector has become as antiquated as the time-honored typewriter.

Anyway, it was in 1978, when I was 10, that my father brought my elder brother David and I to the Huon Theatre in Lae one rainy night to watch Storm Boy.

I remember sitting with my eyes glued to the big screen, following Storm Boy’s every move, until I broke down and wept with him when his pet pelican Mr Percival was shot by hunters along a lonely, windswept Australian shore.

Every once in a while there is a special film, a film that appeals to all ages, a classic family entertainment that celebrates life and joyfully touches the heart.Storm Boy is that film.

Storm Boy (Mike) lives with his recluse father, Hide-Away Tom, on South Australia's lonely and beautiful coast.

Years before, when Storm Boy’s mother had died, Hide-Away Tom had left Adelaide and gone to live like a hermit by the sea.

Here his Storm Boy’s spirit roams with his pet pelican, Mr Percival, and his secret Aboriginal friend, Fingerbone Bill.

He knows no other world.

Suddenly there are intruders: the local school teacher who wants him to take lessons, a resentful wildlife ranger, duck shooters, hooligans with loud music.

Storm Boy, growing up, is forced to choose between a life of continued isolation and the challenges of the outside world.

One time the hunters are in the area, Mr Percival is shot down and Mike does a mad search through the long grass to find him.

The search is unsuccessful and Mike cries as he walks along the beach remembering times they spent together.

Fingerbone eventually finds Mr. Percival and buries him.

He shows Storm Boy the grave he dug, and there are a few moments of sadness, but this is turned to hope when Fingerbone shows Storm Boy a nest with a freshly hatched pelican in it: "Mr. Percival all over again, a bird like him never dies."

The film was one of the first Australian feature films made for children to become well-known and both the book and film are still widely used in school English programmes.

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