Trobriand Cricket (film)

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Trobriand Cricket: An Ingenious Response to Colonialism (50 min., filmed in 1973-1974) is an anthropological documentary about the people of the Trobriand Islands and their unique innovations to the game of cricket. The film was made by Gary Kildea, under the direction of anthropologist Jerry Leach.[1]

Historical context and film summary[edit]

Cricket was introduced to Trobriand by a British missionary, Reverend Gilmour, in the early 20th century, to replace violent tribal warfare with gentlemanly sportsmanship. Cricket in Trobriand underwent a dramatic transformation: the number of players, balls, bats, rules, and uniforms changed, as did the meaning of the sport and manner of play. In the film, cricket in Trobriand appears to be a form of ritualized warfare.

The film contrasts scenes of the original, staid game played on pitches in England with the Trobriand version, full of colors, sounds, music, and dance. A Trobriand "reporter" also seeks to find the meaning and origin of his 'own' culture, by interviewing senior members of the community and by observing the cricket game/ritual.

In fact, this film was done of a reconstruction of cricket match "specifically enacted for the camera team by the members of a local political movement, who at the time of filming (1973) were seeking an ascendant role in the Trobriand politics."[2] Weiner[3] also claims that this Kabisawali Association movement, led by John Kasaipwalova (or John K, as Kiriwina people called him) caused "intense sociopolitical factionalism that generated hatred, violence and confusion" and that John K was convicted by the Papua New Guinea government for embezzlement of government funds. Weiner also notes that during that period and after, cricket was not being played in Kiriwina. Thus the Trobriand cricket in this film was a well orchestrated and heavily edited version of something of which Trobrianders had recent memory.

Anthropological significance[edit]

Trobriand Cricket is historically significant because it served in part as a model for future filmmakers seeking to take on an ethnographic project.[4] In an interview published in the Spring 1978 issue of Film Quarterly, ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch is quoted as saying about Trobriand Cricket: “It's a wonderful film, perhaps one of the greatest anthropological films of recent time.”[5]


  1. ^ "Film Library, Royal Anthropological Institute". 
  2. ^ Weiner, Annette B. (1977). "Review of Trobriand Cricket". American Anthropologist. 79: 506–507. 
  3. ^ Weiner, Annette B. (1978). "Epistemology and Ethnographic Reality: A Trobriand Island Case Study". American Anthropologist. 80: 752–757. 
  4. ^ [Ness, Sally Ann. "Understanding Cultural Performance: "Trobriand Cricket"" TDR 32.4 (1988): 135-47. JSTOR. Web.], additional text.
  5. ^ Yakir, Dan and Rouch, Jean 1978. "Ciné-Transe: The Vision of Jean Rouch: An Interview," Film Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Spring, 1978), pp. 2-11. University of California Press.

Further reading[edit]

  • Appadurai, Arjun 1997. "Playing With Modernity: the Decolonization of Indian Cricket," pages 89–113 in his Modernity at Large. Oxford University Press.

External links[edit]