JAKARTA (Pacific Scoop / Pacific Media Watch): The voices of local workers in the world’s largest gold and copper mine controlled by the US-based mining giant Freeport McMoRan in West Papua can be heard loud and clear in a new documentary that chronicles the biggest strike in the company’s history.
Alkinemokiye is the latest feature documentary from filmmaker Dandhy Dwi Laksono. It captures the fight of 8000 workers for increased wages in what is believed to be the longest and most widely joined strike since the mining company began operations in Indonesia in 1967.
It is estimated that more than a third of Freeport’s 22,000 local workers joined the strike, which lasted from September to December last year.
The historic work action was widely covered by local and international media, which focused primarily on the strike’s affect on Freeport’s business.
Live reports from the ground, including details of dramatic shooting sprees by unknown gunmen near the mining area, frequently led the news.
Visually, the contents of Dhandhy’s feature are not too different, as he uses footage broadcast on television.
Yet, the documentary is still an eye-opening thriller as it includes a comprehensive history and background on the company’s operations in Indonesia as well as insider footage, shot inside the highly-guarded mining site.
Missed by mainstream
“We wanted to add a perspective to the film, something that the mainstream media has missed,” Dandhy told The Jakarta Post.
Watching the 60-minute film, it is clear that the director has deliberately focused on the perspective of the striking workers.
The documentary begins with an amateur video shot by a worker who tries to explain conditions at his workplace to his beloved children.
The secluded Grasberg mining site is depicted with wobbly and low-resolution images shot by a man who is trying to connect with faraway relatives.
This is followed by interviews with striking workers. The interviews dominate the film, as the director not only talks to workers but also retirees who claimed to have been cheated by the company.
When it comes to providing background on the strike, the director has done a good job. The interviews and supporting data on the company’s rising revenue and on skyrocketing gold prices make the workers’ demands for more than 100 percent salary increases sound reasonable.
Dandhy said the data was added into the film later on after receiving input from the audiences after a limited screening in December last year.
The documentary, which took more than a month to make, was released on YouTube.
“I want all the people to have access to it,” said Dandhy, adding he received no sponsorship or funding for the film.
“The budget is almost zero rupiah because we made it as a side project during our other commercial works,” said the director, a freelance journalist known for his investigative video reporting.
Alkinemokiyeis Dandhy’s fourth documentary feature. The title is taken from the language of the biggest tribe in Timika regency, where Freeport operates its mining concession.
Alkinemokiyemeans work hard for a better life, but the director translates it as “From Struggle Dawns a New Hope”.
Dandhy plans to enter the film in the international documentary competition held by the Al-Jazeera news network in April this year.
From a journalistic point of view, Alkinemokiye feels incomplete, as the company’s side of story was not presented. Dandhy, however, said he intended to make the focus of the film the employees only.
Point of view
“We wanted to make it simple and we chose one point of view — and that came from the workers,” the filmmaker said.
“If anyone objects, please make your own documentary,” he challenged.
The film is successful in giving voice to protesting workers and to pensioners who are struggling to get by.
Dandhy presents a documentary with a well-defined story arc that presents a strong argument for the workers’ demands.
Not only that, the documentary also tries to describe the bloody incidents that marred the strike and brushed against the political relationship between Freeport and the central government.
Alkinemokiyereminds the audience that Freeport has earmarked special “security funds” for government law enforcers to maintain order in its operational area.
At least 11 Freeport workers were shot dead by unknown gunmen between 2009 to 2011.
Freeport spokesperson in Jakarta Ramdani Sirait declined to comment on the film, saying the company had carried out all its operations in accordance with the principles of human rights.
Controversy aside, the film gives a fuller picture of what is happening with local Papuan people working in the world’s largest gold and copper mine.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.