Video: Incredible 1912 film made on Toman island, Malekula – ‘Cannibal of the South Seas’

Promotional image for 'Cannibals of the South Seas', released in 1918. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Promotional image for ‘Cannibals of the South Seas’, released in the US in 1918. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tanna might be the first feature film filmed in Vanuatu and acted by a ni-Vanuatu cast, but the history of film in Vanuatu actually stretches back more than a hundred years. Click the link below to watch this piece of history.

Martin Johnson was a pioneering American film-maker and adventurer who was also one of the first people to document the then New Hebrides on film. He made a number of visits to the New Hebrides, starting in 1912, returning numerous times to Malekula with his wife Osa, also a film-maker, including in 1918 when they were supposedly held hostage by a Big Nambas chief (which made for great publicity!)

Their films about the south Pacific, Cannibals of the South Seas (1912), Jack London’s Adventures of the South Seas (1913), Among the Cannibal Isles of the South Seas (1918) and Headhunters of the South Seas (1922), were made at a time when the US film industry was in its infancy, and were very successful at the box office.

Martin and Osa Johnson

Martin and Osa Johnson

The Johnsons are probably responsible more than anyone else in the 20th century for popularising the myth of the exotic ‘south seas’. While their films play up the then-popular Western stereotype of the New Hebrideans as bloodthirsty cannibals, they are also extremely valuable as a record of the people of Vanuatu made at the very beginning of the motion picture age.

More information about Martin and Osa Johnson can be found here.


One Comment on “Video: Incredible 1912 film made on Toman island, Malekula – ‘Cannibal of the South Seas’”

  1. emm says:

    WOW! Thanks for sharing this amazing footage.