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All that Glitters ...

Director Robert Nugent talks about his documentary "End of the Rainbow"

end of the rainbow
End of the Rainbow: women panning for gold
A few years ago I was working on a film about the impact of the closure of a gold mine on Dyak communities in a remote part of Borneo. They told me that they were going to move the old gold mining plant half way around the world, to Africa. It sounded a grand and improbable scheme, something like the quest of Herzog's "Fitzcarraldo". That was enough really. I did not even know really where it was going. I asked if I could make a film about it.

I soon discovered that large machines move at the pace of a dirge. Nothing was really going to stop this thing from happening. There were no consuming rapids on the other side of the mountain. But the closer I filmed the pieces of the machine, the more my attention became focused on the individuals who were winding the cogs, and on those whose lives it marched into. Eventually the machine started to become unimportant. A portrait of two worlds meeting began to emerge, built outward from a cinematographic centre. Several strands played out, with each other and with the whole. Scenes flowed from one to the other, sometimes overlapping.

The story is fairly simple. A gold mine moves into a traditional subsistent agricultural community. There are misunderstandings on both sides and yet both strive, in their own way, to understand what is going on. The narrative is fairly slight. A stranger comes to visit. There is initially optimism and then a rising feeling that perhaps the strangers may not share their wealth. Power is obviously not equal and the new powers displace the old protecting spirits. The mine brings with it a set of norms which, while rational and legal in one world, are incomprehensible and aberrant in the other.

The resulting film is made up of an ensemble of characters and observed situations, who only ever come together within the universe of the film. The juxtapositions are, I think, justified because most were shot within a radius of one kilometer of each other. There are village bards, local chiefs, security personnel, engineers, army officers, gold dealers and farmers. The situation that they find themselves in reminds me of people in a Beckett play. They are striving for something positive, yet trapped by something that is largely negative.

I wanted the film to be based on a cinematic flow of ideas. In the end they all flow into a senseless battle. Gold was what everyone wanted, but this is what they actually found. The old village chief has the last word, which seemed only fair.

Robert Nugent 2008

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