Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Film maker commits suicide

I heard today that Pip Starr who came to show his film at Beyond TV, has died.He took his own life last week, just a few weeks after coming to our BeyondTv festival. A sad loss to the world and the loss of a motivated video activist. This may have been his last public interview.

9 comments:

Marsha Emerman said...

Pip was a talented, passionate, and dedicated filmmaker and activist. With minimal resources and tremendous courage, he made films about people and issues that really matter – Australia’s shameful detention of asylum seekers at Woomera Detention Centre, the treatment of workers in the global coffee trade, and the plight of environmental refugees in the Cartaret Islands. He was humble, generous, and an inspiration. Pip will be sadly missed by all of us in Melbourne’s filmmaking and activist communities.

Paulo @ undercurrents said...

Pip Starr, documentary maker, video activist and great companion, passed away on Tuesday the 22nd of January 2008. Pip had worked closely within the activism community for 10 years as an independent journalist, reporter, and film maker who documented anti-nuclear, climate change, globalisation, indigenous and many more movements largely in Australia and the Pacific.

Related: Pip Starr Pictures | Blogs: What a Starr, Sad, angry and confused, Pip Starr - an obituary, Obituary Pip Starr: Melbourne Activist, Geekgirl Pip Starr:RIP, Barista These things happened, InvestigativeBlog

He wasan active contributer to EngageMedia, a video activism site for Australia and the Pacific, as well as Ska TV, Bent TV, documenting the Melbourne S11 protests against the World Economic Forum meeting, SpaceStation Video Lab, Woomera and Desert Indymedia and beyond.

Pip produced an enormous amount of work during his time. He documented anti-nuclear, climate change, globalisation, indigenous and many more movements. Chances are if you see some iconic footage of the 1998 Jabiluka blockade, the Melbourne S11 protests against the WEF in 2000, or Woomera detention centre protest in 2002, Pip shot it. He was always in the thick of it.

Aboriginal activist Gary Foley introduced him to the Jabiluka campaign against a new uranium mine in 1998 which resulted in Fight for Country. "Gary made me understand the importance of film making as a documentation of history." Pip described on his website. The film took 4 years to complete of which a year was spent living and documenting the Jabiluka blockade established by the Mirrar people.

For many years he worked closely with Friends of the Earth Australia, especially on climate change, anti-nuclear and indigenous issues.

In recent years Pip's film making grew further and he embarked on several large projects that took him around the world, from the coffee plantations of Honduras to Carteret Islands, being flooded by rising sea levels due to global warming. Unfortunately much of this work is uncompleted. At the time of his death he was seeking finance to complete the film The First Wave documenting the relocation of the Carteret Islanders due to human induced rising sea levels.

Indeed, Pip Starr brought the plight of the Carteret Islanders to world attention with his videos, photos and activist reporting, such as in this September 2006 post to Melbourne Indymedia on Carterets to be Evacuated.

Pip worked for many years as a part time nurse in the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne that dealt with major road traumas, where he witnessed time and time again the violence that is the motor car. So one of his first documentaries was a film of a Reclaim the Streets action in Sydney.

Pip's philosophy as a documentary film-maker, as described on his website:


I’ve been making documentary films in and about various activist communities for over 10 years. Most doco’s are about human and environmental issues of local, national and international significance. I believe documentary should be beautiful and entertaining as well as emotionally and intellectually stimulating. I have always been inspired by the work of activists and others who have a long term vision for the world that is about peace and real sustainability.

A week before his death Pip had made an apointment to visit Port Arthur with John Hunter and other climate scientists to add further film footage on sea level rise. He never turned up. John Hunter said that it was "sad that his work of broadcasting the importance of climate change is now over."

David Tiley (Barista) reports on his memorial service in Footscray Gardens and reflects on the hardships of Pip as an activist independent filmmaker:

Pip worked on a long film about the exploitation of coffee growers,
accumulating stories bit by bit. Though he made films for Friends of
the Earth, completed a number of short projects independently, guided
several teams under terrible conditions, and shot beautiful footage
with great determination, he did not have an Australian broadcaster
willing to back him, to commit even one hour of national television
time to a world view won by experience and fortitude.

We
assume that a completed program is the point. Slog our guts out to
create an hour of television. His story reminds us that documentary is
about witness, as much as meaning. Freed from further structure, Pip’s
footage flows out like stones rolling across sand, pieces of a hard,
gnarly truth. These things happened and I was there.

For reasons many of us are still trying to understand Pip chose to take his own life, a life that still had so much possibility. His contribution was enormous and his departure will leave a great hole in the world of radical documentary film.

Some of his completed documentaries include:

* RTS-7 - on a Reclaim the Streets event in Sydney in 1999 "No time was more fun than the 7th Reclaim the streets in Sydney.... It remains my favorite doco still. I think I’ve made better quality doco’s since, but none have been so much fun."
* Through the Wire - documented the Easter 2002 protests at the Woomera Refugee Detention Camp, where activists assisted asylum seekers to escape the concentartion camp.
* Fight for Country - documented the fight to stop the Jabiluka uranim mine on Mirrar land during 1998.
* The Okapa Connection - a documentary on coffee and its jouney from grower to consumer.
* Atomic Footprints - a documentary providing some of the reasons why Australia must continue to oppose nuclear proliferation.

You can find some of Pip's films on his website - http://starr.tv

* On EngageMedia - http://www.engagemedia.org/author/pipstarr
* On YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/user/starrpip
* Interview with Pip (2001) - http://www.milkbar.com.au/local/archive_12.html



Blog Obituaries:

* Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert - What a Starr
* Richard Watts - Sad, angry and confused
* Chi Too - Pip Starr - an obituary
* Craig Bellamy - Obituary Pip Starr: Melbourne Activist
* Barista These things happened

Sources:

* Adapted from Pip's website, blog entries above, and EngageMedia. (2008, January 30). The Passing of Pip Starr. Retrieved January 30, 2008, from EngageMedia Web site: http://www.engagemedia.org/Members/EngageMedia/news/pip-starr.

Sydney Australia said...

I didn't know Pip, but had a brief correspondence with him via Facebook, November 07 last year. I saw the 10 min version of his new DVD Atomic Footprints (on youtube) and wrote to him to say it was a good work and - an had he seen Indian radical documentary filmmaker Anand Partwardhan's great film War and Peace (on the nuclear issue in India and Pakistan) http://www.patwardhan.com/


He wrote back: Nov 1 4.58 am

Hi jeni.

Thanks for your message. I've not seen the film, or heard of the film maker before. The list of films he's made all sound very interesting, by title at least. I'll have a look and see if ACMI have any of them.

Thanks,

Pip

jeni thornley said...

further to my last post...Having had those emails with Pip late last year (my previous post) I was just getting to know him and his work; I am really sorry to hear of his death - his contribution as an activist filmmaker was strong and making such a contribution.

Jeni

s.b.k said...

Infinite respect.

urbanbicyclist said...

I first met Pip atCritical Mass 10 years ago. As I ventured around Melbourne's Activist community, Pip was always there, a familiar face in the crowd, with his camera. A committed kind and gentle person who made me feel at ease in many situations.
In particular I was proud to have worked with Pip as a bicycle courier with iXpress and Indymedia outside the Crown Casino during the protests.
I haven't been in touch with Pip so much in the past few years as the activist scene has changed over time and we have both travelled more. I'm looking at his photos from Papua New Guinea right now. He knew where to be and made meaningful connections with the locals as he tried to tell their story, in a way many others are unable to.
Pip, I'm sad that you're gone already. It's too soon.
You'll continue to inspire me with your memory and your work.

Anonymous said...

http://barista.media2.org/?p=3330
It is hard to think about the life and death of Pip Starr. I am sitting here watching a video of him on YouTube, posted by an English activist organisation called Undercurrents, shot just a month ago.

He sits on a stage and talks about footage he shot on the Carteret Islands, one of the first places in the world which will be evacuated because of climate change. On the beach, a local man speaks of Western responsibility for war and pollution, conjuring a planet in crisis, using only words in a tiny place gleaming with sun and life.

It is clear that Pip is an accomplished cameraman. He seems to find it difficult to sit still. At the funeral, his friend and partner in Rockhopper Productions, Bill Runting spoke of the way he did all the technical stuff, while Pip was completely in control of the creativity. He had the strength to be isolated, to pursue the effects of growth and ecological degradation in sad, far, battered places. But he was isolated here too, not one to share imaginative responsibility, to work in a team, to change through feedback. His autonomy was also distance.

You can find his films and a bit about his philosophy at his website.

To me, he seemed to skitter about. He was a key part of the Melbourne activist film community, which combines agitprop, lifestyle and documentation. They are the scruffy people with the cameras at the march. He would appear at meetings to tell us our mainstream documentary approach ignored the complex practice emerging from passionate people with the new, extraordinary, micro-cameras, but then never really step into the dialogue he created.

Pip turned up at the Jabiluka blockade, made a film about it, unpretentiously and without intrusion. At the funeral, he was described as a great listener. He was at the Woomera demonstrations where people attacked the camp fence and helped imprisoned refugees to escape, uselessly into the desert.

You can probably remember footage of it. I have seen the raw material, with its chaos and desperation, held together by visual discipline. Button on, button off. Pan and zoom. Keep the lens clean, stay away from the cops on the horses. Find a socket to recharge the batteries. Make sure the tape gets away safe.

Much of the footage you are thinking of belongs to Pip. Without him, in some important ways, the fight would not exist as you understand it. You would not feel so much of the truth of it, the starkness and horror. The rage and frustration which represented what so many of us felt.

Pip was once Stuart, a Mildura kid with an ordinary family. At his funeral, his niece spoke of his games and gentleness, his humour and radiance. He wanted to be an actor, and trained as a nurse to give himself a stable income. He practiced until he died. If you have been treated at The Alfred Hospital, he may have tended you in the operating theatre. He was the smiling, thin man with the sunburned face, and the dreadlocks.

Pip worked on a long film about the exploitation of coffee growers, accumulating stories bit by bit. Though he made films for Friends of the Earth, completed a number of short projects independently, guided several teams under terrible conditions, and shot beautiful footage with great determination, he did not have an Australian broadcaster willing to back him. They would not commit even one hour of national television time to a world view won by his experience and fortitude.

We assume that a completed program is the point. Slog our guts out to create an hour of television. His story reminds us that documentary is about witness, as much as meaning. Freed from further structure, Pip’s footage flows out like stones rolling across sand, pieces of a hard, gnarly truth. These things happened and I was there.

The funeral brought together so many communities, young and old. His family, resigned and bewildered. His queer companions. His ecological comrades. And his film mates as well. I was disappointed to see so few of them, to realise I knew nearly everyone. There is not a huge group of people using this new, magic recording technology to explore the crises of our time, or even track the sucession of small moments that cohere into a life.

The funeral was called a memorial service, and held by a pond in the Footscray Gardens. Under stress from lack of water, there was a film of dust on leaves, as the trucks rumbled in the distance, and the sun with its flat glare erased the sports paddock beyond the watery green. We were gathered in a semi circle, standing or sitting on white plastic chairs, under white umbrellas and shadecloth. A halting celebrant staggered through a recitation, some poems, a testimony, remembrances. A bit confused, we clapped.

Pip’s sinewy frame, his enquiring eyes, his mop of hair were packed into the cheapest of coffins. As the bearers took his body away to the fire, they played the favourites from his iPod. A nondescript collection, made to ride a bike and do the dishes, and not to celebrate a life and its myriad moments of joy and imagination.

They read out the text message he left to his friends. It goes, give or take a word or two, like this: “Tell everyone I’m sorry but I’m really happy with my choice. The world is beautiful. Love. it.”

He killed himself, of course.

I don’t know the words to take us forward from this point.

Mark said...

Sorry to hear about Pip's passing.
One of the few filmmakers I knew who tackled the hard questions, that used his skill to make a better world, regardless of personal cost.
It makes me sad and angry, that in a democracy ,the likes Pip are treated like pariahs by film funding .
"the impossibility of being human
all too human
this breathing
in and out
out and in
these punks
these cowards
these champions
these mad dogs of glory
moving this little bit of light toward us
impossibly." Bukowski

traverser said...

wrote this poem. when i first heard that starr'd died. was living at irene, where indymedia's office had been. (we thought he'd o.ded) didn't post it nowhere then. afta went to funeral, well, couldn't. but now, unexpectedly ended up making docos and, thinking its important to share more than just our eyes:


make o bento
for the old soul to go home
fuck bro
all i got for you this poem

never too close
always soldered
so fucking solid
made art to act
face facts
fight back
eyes to catch
the slavers lash
& now you ash

thorn in the crown
defender of sacred ground
of you we’re proud
rough star come down

mechanical black
skin you earnt outback
kin with all activists
opening up cracks.
but now our country attacked
dozer tracks
smash us back
& now we lack
one more long the track

thorn in the crown
hurts your brow
wore you down
burden in suicide drowned

melbournes my home ground
grown up in protest crowds
when pip was catching sound
npa a silent clown
over rooftops of councils
with lense moon scented
in the dirt of sweatshop irene
he sewn seeds for dissenters
in image hooked them fishes
and let them out for the billions

look after our comrades
this ain’t a fucking tirade
just lets give back up
the same what he gave us
soldiers and artists
in solidarity
put your hands up

make o bento
for the old soul to go home
fuck bro
all i got for you this poem

---
if you wanna check my films, they're at:
http://www.engagemedia.org/author/traverser11
and more poems at:
http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=161556885