The Bushman of Tamban – a film by Fil Baker

Several years ago, in another lifetime, when Scotts Head had perfectly formed sand banks and waves peeled from the point to the Bowling club track, a distance of 300 or more metres, the point attracted a group of dedicated early morning surfers. Fil Baker was one of those surfers – although not really an “out there before sunrise surfer”. He rode an array of surfboards, some of which looked like they had been picked up on one of those twice-a-year chuck out days that the council has. His style somewhat matched the boards and his big mischievous smile said it all. I liked him immediately. Although we didn’t become the best of friends for a while, I would often see him surfing. Being the budding film maker that he was, he always let me take the best wave.

A few years passed and eventually he mentioned that he would like to make a film of my work – which took me by surprise. However, after he mentioned that he had footage of a dolphin’s birth that he’d filmed underwater, the light went on – I think that was the decider for me.

Fast forward – after promises of some funding from here and there which never eventuated – we completed the film with no budget, somehow managing to make the pieces come together. The Life and Films of Albe Falzon came out and sold a few copies. About a year or so later I asked him if he would help complete a DVD re-make of a film we had shot in Tibet – The Wesak Festival – and he agreed. Again with no budget we managed to get the film together and Journey to the Wesak Valley in Tibet came out. Of all the films I have made this film most certainly, for me, is the most important. Our friendship grew.

Recently we caught up and he mentioned that he had just won a local film contest, food being the theme. That struck me as unusual for Fil and a long way from Tibet. That evening he sent me the link of his short film along with the other entries from the festival. With an overabundance of food programs on television and the obsession that Australians have with food from their new found wealth – resulting in gross obesity, the last thing I wanted to do was watch a film on food – particularly as most recipes are animal based.

However, the film is so different from anything you would expect on the topic of food. It’s a captivating and remarkable film – very “left of field” – I absolutely loved it – so much so that when it was finished I replayed the film and watched it again.

The Bushman of Tamban features Damian Milborngnamabarra Calhoun, a true lover of nature and the Australian bush and Aboriginal life. It opens with a blaze of light through the treetops and pans down to Damian walking barefoot through the bush. On his path he talks about the abundance of bush tucker all around and proceeds to pick leaves and food from the trees and surrounding bush, describing the healthy benefits from this native bushland. He’s obviously lived his life amongst the trees and Aboriginals who have taught him the natural way of living from the abundance available at our fingertips – once we know what we are looking for.

The Aboriginals have, for thousands of years, survived in what modern society has called a “sunburnt country”. We have developed and maintained an industrialised/chemical – based society, one in which very little knowledge, understanding or empathy with the land exists. Damian has spent most of his life in the bush – we are reminded of his affinity with the environment as he talks with love about his friends “the trees” that he grew up with.

This film is a must for all connected with nature, and especially for those who have lost sight of that connection. Fil Baker in choosing Damian as the Bushman of Tamban has captured the beauty and richness of the natural world that surrounds us and that we are a part of. As Damian so powerfully and gently tells us at the end of the film, “everything comes from the land and goes back to the land – how are we to care for each other if there’s no food in the super markets”.

When I next see Fil in the water surfing and a good set looms on the horizon, I will definitely be giving him the best wave.

The Bushman of Tamban from FiL Baker on Vimeo.

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