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CRACKS IN THE MASK

Year: 1997

Classification: G

Runtime: 56 min

Produced In: Australia

Directed By: Frances Calvert

Produced By: Frances Calvert, Lindsey Merrison

Language: English

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Over the last 100 years, the Torres Strait Islanders in far north Australia have been the subject of many anthropological expeditions. The resulting depletion of their cultural artefacts has left them with nothing but a history of remembered loss. The only people in the Pacific to make elaborate turtleshell masks have none left; all their material culture now resides in foreign museums.

In a quest to reclaim the past, Ephraim Bani, a wise and knowledgeable Torres Strait Islander , travels with his wife to the great museums of Europe where his heritage lies. Ephraim unburdens himself to his diary in moments of poignant revelation: the artefacts made by his ancestors have undergone a transformation as museum displays. When Ephraim asks for the return of some objects, the resulting debate exposes wider questions about contemporary museum culture as well as the complexity of international and Indigenous politics. They thought it would be easy to talk to the curators about the restitution of some objects; but to his mind, museums were in competition with each other to own the greatest treasures.

As the title suggests, even the thickest of masks can crack when the original owners come to visit.

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