TALK­ING HEADS Will Mil­lard, p18

The film­maker is busy. On the heels of his thought-pro­vok­ing Pa­pua doc­u­men­tary se­ries, Will Mil­lard is back with a fish­ing mem­oir and a new show on Wales. He talks tribes, sand eels and why a wooden sub­ma­rine is a bad idea

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - This Issue -

My Year with the Tribe saw you spend time with the Ko­rowai peo­ple of Pa­pua. But things didn’t go smoothly, and the ma­jor­ity of the vil­lages you vis­ited were more mod­ern than you ex­pected. It’s ruf­fled quite a few feath­ers…

We wanted to film it with­out fix­ers go­ing out there and iron­ing out the creases be­fore I ar­rived – to be as real as pos­si­ble. I think [the ten­sions be­tween the film­mak­ers and the Ko­rowai] is a lot for the au­di­ence to take; it is the un­var­nished ver­sion of the truth and that’s al­ways go­ing to cre­ate con­tro­versy.

It did raise doubts over the authen­tic­ity of the ex­pe­ri­ences trav­ellers might have.

We have to ques­tion why we hold tribal or re­mote com­mu­ni­ties to dif­fer­ent stan­dards. Does it mat­ter if the San Bush­men in Namibia put on a per­for­mance for your ben­e­fit for cash? I don’t think it does. They’re the ex­perts on how to per­form their rit­u­als. It pisses me off when I hear this kind of one-up­man­ship; of who had the most au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence.

So, what would you rec­om­mend that trav­ellers see and do in Pa­pua?

The cen­tral high­lands are great, and if you time your visit around the Baliem Fes­ti­val, you’re in for a treat. There’s also good hill walk­ing, [while off­shore] the Raja Am­pat is­lands are the jewel in the crown of the Co­ral Tri­an­gle, with the best div­ing you’re ever likely to ex­pe­ri­ence. You can swim with whale sharks out in Nabire Bay and see birds of par­adise in the forests. Cer­tainly, don’t dis­card Pa­pua be­cause of what you saw on the se­ries.

In be­tween film­ing, you were ex­plor­ing Bri­tain for a book on fish­ing…

I’d caught a sand eel off the Dorset coast and just chucked it back in. Then I re­alised that it would have smashed the record for this diminu­tive fish. So I’ve spent two years trav­el­ling Bri­tain, across the whole spec­trum of places that you can fish [to try and break an­other record] – every­thing from crum­bling ur­ban dock­lands right up to the tweed-cov­ered heart of Scot­land. It’s not just a fish­ing book, it’s a nat­u­ral his­tory book, but it’s also for any­one with an ob­ses­sive side to them.

And in the mean­time, you’re also film­ing an­other new doc­u­men­tary: Hid­den Wales. What are your lo­cal tips?

If you head to the Black Moun­tains, you can go there and not see an­other soul. I love go­ing to the iron­works around Cy­far­thfa Cas­tle, too. These iron­works kick­started the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion. You walk into them think­ing: ‘Bloody hell, all the great in­dus­trial cities were built off the back of what hap­pened here.’

Where are you trav­el­ling to next?

North Wales. We’re div­ing the wreck of the Resurgam. It’s a wooden sub­ma­rine, so sur­prise, sur­prise, it sank.

“It doesn’t mat­ter if the lo­cals are putting on a per­for­mance – they’re the ex­perts on their rit­u­als”

“It pisses me off when I hear this kind of one-up­man­ship of who had the most au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The Old Man and the Sand Eel (Vik­ing, £12.50) is out now; Hid­den Wales will be out soon. For our full in­ter­view with Will, head to www.wan­der­lust.co.uk

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