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Public Lecture Series with George Sirk

Modern Times Too: A documentary on Papua New Guinea

Narrated ‘live’ by George Sirk

In 1981, George Sirk went with two ornithologists, Wayne Longmore, from the Australian Museum, and Brian Finch from the UK, to Papua New Guinea on a birding expedition to the Chambri Lakes and the Bayer River Highlands. The lakes had not been surveyed since the 1930’s and new data was sought by the Museum.

The unaffected authenticity of ‘Modern Times Too’ was a direct result of George’s honest rapport with the Papuans. This, combined with his expertise in the Australasian natural world, will be apparent as he narrates the film with his mesmerizing tales.

George brought his Rollei Super 8mm camera and a limited amount of film to document the Bayer River Highland’s pristine high altitude rainforest habitats, Birds of Paradise (BOP) and hopefully, the annual Papuan dance ritual known as a sing-sing. He recorded the discovery of a Meliphaga Honeyeater’s nest that was, until then, “undescribed” and collected footage of several species of BOPs. It was, however, the documentation of Papuan life that made this film a rare collection indeed.

The film is registered in Canada as a Documentary Short and premiered in 1982 at the University of British Columbia. It was digitally remastered and edited in 2013 for its presentation at the ‘Wings Over the Rockies’ festival in the Upper Columbia Valley, BC.

In the film we witness the creation of a meal, from locating and digging megapode fowl eggs to the preparation of the “omelette”; every implement, cooking vessel - their virtuosic twelve-second genesis of FIRE! - all procured with ease, specificity, and within close range...let’s call it the 100 foot diet!

The grand finale is rare, impromptu footage of a sing-sing. The last of the film stock was candidly shot in a remote village, with special permission, and spectacularly showcases the elaborate display of Papuan wildlife worn on the headdresses. George saw many more species of BOPs on the heads of Papuans than in the wild, yet their habitat relationship with BOPs is mutually beneficial, whereas industrial logging is exclusive.

This film features a realistic glimpse of Papuans successfully carrying on with their oft called ‘primitive’ way of life undeterred by modern times. George marvels at the Papuan culture and its corresponding relationship to nature which has resulted in a singularly impressive 45,000 years of ecological balance. In the light of our ‘modern’ global malaise, it begs the question, ‘What is primitive and what is modern, after all’?

George Sirk’s refreshing perspective, enthusiasm and passion for nature are contagious. These qualities have made him an exceptional naturalist guide, photographer and film maker. A passion for creating slide, film and video documentaries has evolved to collecting ‘images’ of nature through sound recording and sketching. This led to producing documentaries for ‘Spark’ and ‘Out Front’ on CBC Radio Canada, as well as regular appearances with ‘On the Island’, CBC Victoria, and hosting his radio show ‘Nature Boy” at the University of Victoria, BC. Most recently, he produced an audio-diary of his Arctic 2016 Northwest Passage expedition with Adventure Canada. For over 45 years he has guided for an array of leading travel companies, including Lindblad Expeditions, Adventure Canada, Costa Rica Expeditions and Travel Wild. After an early specialization in birding expeditions to Australia, Papua New Guinea and Central America, George has broadened his scope to the high Arctic over the past ten seasons. From camping with Tapirs in Belize to spotting Narwhals in the frigid Arctic, his interpretative work is always suffused with humour and vivid story-telling.

Date: Monday, April 24

Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Lecture

Location: Club Headquarters, 46 East 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

Member Ticket Price: $10

Guest Ticket Price: $25

Student Ticket Price: $5 with a valid student ID

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste