“At a time when women’s sport in Australia is enjoying unprecedented growth, exposure and opportunity, I hope the film will inspire women and girls in Australia to follow their dreams in sport or in life.”
Power Meri will have it’s world premiere at the third annual Pasifika Film Fest in Sydney this week following a preview attended by the film’s stars, the National Rugby League (NRL) leadership, community leaders and the Managing Director of the ABC Michelle Guthrie.
“I grew up with rugby league, and I have long been interested in the sport’s potential to have a positive impact in society,” said the film’s Director Joanna Lester, who is back in Sydney for the Premiere. “Nowhere is this potential greater than in Papua New Guinea – the only country in the world with rugby league as its national sport, and a place struggling with social problems that impact negatively on women.”
“I moved to PNG in 2014 to work on a rugby league-themed community project run by the NRL. Many of my colleagues were female rugby league players, and I could see the impact their participation in the country’s male-dominated, national sport was having on their lives and the attitudes of those around them. When it was confirmed that PNG would field a team in the women’s rugby league world cup for the first time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to document that journey and, through it, share the wider story of how women playing rugby league is changing communities and mindsets.”
Some of the Orchid’s had too made it over to Australia for the screening, including the team’s Captain Cathy Neap who is also known in PNG as a grassroots advocate for women’s issues.
“It has long frustrated me that although Papua New Guinea is our nearest neighbour (10 kilometres away at the closest point) with a population twice the size of New Zealand, most Australians are completely disengaged with the realities of contemporary life in PNG,” said Lester. “Of the small amount of screen and media content seen by Australian audiences that relates to PNG, much of it focuses on Kokoda or negative reporting of the country’s social problems.”
“Having lived in PNG and worked alongside female rugby league players, I wanted to share their story, through their voices, with Australian and international audiences, because I believe their story is just as important a contribution to regional understanding of PNG society as anything else.”
Chronicling the teams World Cup efforts, the documentary will premiere during the inaugural Holden NRL Women’s Premiership which kicked off this week in Sydney.
“I thought it was particularly important to make a film about the World Cup journey so that, once the excitement of the tournament and the Orchids’ story had died down, the film would live on and reach new audiences across PNG, the wider Pacific, Australia and beyond,” concluded Lester.