Bougainville: A Textbook in Colonization


Directed by Alexandre Berman and Olivier Pollet

Film Review

This documentary traces the history behind the 2019 referendum in which 98% of Bougainville island (which is mainly run by women) voted for independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG)

The referendum has its history in the “Bougainville Crisis,” a ten-year insurrection which the government of PNG lost, despite receiving major military support from Australia. The independence referendum was a condition of the 2000 peace treaty.

The insurrection, in turn, stemmed from the brutal exploitation of Ophir residents, many of whom were driven off their land. The oppressors? The the PNG government and a major copper and gold mining operation run by a Rio Tinto** subsidiary. The Paguna mine closed down when the insurrection started in 1989. However even after 30 years, Ohpir’s fragile tropical ecosystem is only just starting to recover.

The film offers numerous scenes from the independence campaign, interspersed with historical background and excerpts from the 2009 DCR (Australian Development Cooperation Report), which focuses on potential strategies for Australian mining interests to recolonize the island.

Despite their landslide victory on the referendum, Ophir has yet to be granted full independence.

*Ophir is the indigenous name for Bougainville Island, currently part of Papua New Guinea

**Rio Tinto, a multinational Anglo-Australian mining conglomerate, is the second largest metal and mining corporation in the world.

The full film can be view at the Maori TV website for the next 21 days:


3 thoughts on “Bougainville: A Textbook in Colonization

  1. Rio Tino owns an aluminum smelter here in New Zealand, and holds our government hostage by threatening to close down every time we try to get them to pay a fair price for the electricity they use.


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