When the Company Came

The Solomon Islanders face to face with a logging company

When the Company Came Set in a remote Solomon Islands village, this is the story of a community coming to terms with the unexpected consequences of a massive logging operation - social and cultural breakdown as well as ecological disintegration.
When village leaders invite a Malaysian company to log their tribal land, the people of Rendova Island find themselves at a difficult crossroads. While many men embrace the chance to earn money and participate in the modern economy, the women are more concerned with preserving the forests and traditions that sustain their families.

Mary Bea and Katy Soapi are two village women who are desperate to stop the logging before it destroys their land. Traditionally, women here were the custodians of land. But since money entered the equation, their power has been severely diminished. Forests have become a source of money, and money is the domain of men. Mary tells us: "Men don't want to hear anything from women, but we women are actually the centre of life in our village. To us, logging is destruction and pollution. We're affected by the pollution in the sea because we collect seaweed and go fishing to feed our children".

At a village meeting traditional chief Mark Lamberi finds himself in opposition to the new 'big man' of the community, logging chairman Timothy Zama. The tribe becomes embroiled in conflicts over land ownership and logging royalties, conflicts that threaten the very core of their traditional social values.

As Rendova's forest rapidly disappears, the loggers turn to Tetepare, a pristine island held sacred by the villagers.

Evocative archival footage from the 1920's provides an insight into Solomon Islands' colonial experience - and raises questions about the remaining legacy of colonial attitudes to land and people. We witness an ongoing disruption of land and society. With powerful Images this documentary traces the breakdown of a community and sheds valuable light on the forces that recently led Solomon Islands to social and economic collapse - even to the brink of civil war.

Produced by Russell Hawkins

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