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The Tombstone Opening
A film by Frances Calvert
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film stillThe Torres Strait Islanders are Australia's 'other' Indigenous minority, Melanesians living on islands north of Cape York and now scattered all across Australia.

This is a culture rich in customs, myth and legends. "The Tombstone Opening" is a joyous ceremony performed years after the funeral to release the spirit of the deceased. Also called an Unveiling, it has nothing to do with exhumation, but refers to the moment when the last veil is unsheathed from the tombstone for everyone to see for the first time.

Frances Calvert, long-time friend and film-maker to Torres Strait, returned to Thursday Island at the request of the family of Ephraim Bani, protagonist of her award-winning film CRACKS IN THE MASK, to record this unique if costly ceremony. Lyrically narrated by Ephraim Bani's grandson, the film explains and contextualises the ceremonies, protocols and songs for an outside audience. The film explores traditional obligations, attitudes to death and hopes for Torres Strait culture to survive in modern, secular Australia.

A fine, accessible production that clearly illustrates the coexistence of the past and the present, the traditional and the modern, the indigenous and the introduced... At less than half an hour, it should hold the interest of students and convince them that indigenous people still exist and continue to be themselves, even when they accept modern and foreign practices such as linguistics, cultural centers, and Christian burials."Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database

"This film is a wonderful cultural experience that celebrates the living and dead together."Educational Media Reviews Online

29 minutes / Color
English / English subtitles
Release: 2015
Copyright: 2012

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Cultural Anthropology, Death and Dying, Indigenous Peoples


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