Black Harvest (1992)

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Released 1-Sep-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Featurette-Sunday Review
Featurette-7.30 Report
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 90:06 (Case: 120)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Robin Anderson
Bob Connolly
Arundel Productions
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Box Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     In the 1983 documentary First Contact, we witnessed the story of the Leahy brothers and their journey into the unexplored Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The brother's search for gold led them to discover one million natives living in the valleys, none of whom had ever encountered a white man before.

    In Joe Leahy's Neighbours we followed a more contemporary story of the legacy of the Leahy's presence in these Highlands. Michael Leahy's mixed-race son Joe Leahy is a successful businessman, owning and operating the Kilima coffee plantation in the Highlands. He and the Ganiga tribe have a very delicate business relationship. Their joint venture into coffee production, Kaugum Plantation, promised substantial returns if coffee prices stayed high. However, many factions within the tribal community were suspicious of Joe and his long-term business plan.

    In late 1989 Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson returned to the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea to document the progress of Kaugum Plantation. Only this time they had an additional crew member - their eighteen-month-old daughter, Katherine, travelled with them to Papua New Guinea for the filming of Black Harvest. Of the three documentaries in the trilogy, Black Harvest is easily the most confronting. The audience connects emotionally with the Ganiga tribe as they suffer many deaths and casualties from senseless tribal warfare. We also feel for Joe Leahy as his life's work, together with his vision for Ganiga prosperity, simply vanishes before his eyes.

    Joe Leahy's business venture with the Ganiga tribe had finally matured and the time had arrived to pick the first crop of coffee; reaping the rewards of years of hard work. Joe and tribal elder Popina Mai were expecting this harvest to vindicate the deal they made some years before and subsequently appease the sceptical members of the Ganiga.

    However, days before harvesting was due to commence, the Coffee Industry Board dramatically dropped the world price of coffee, setting in motion a chain of events that would not only splinter the business partnership, but also change the whole dynamic of the Highlands region.

    Logically with the low coffee prices, plantation workers would be paid much lower wages than initially planned. The workers were told that token wages would have to apply if the plantation had any chance of surviving this economic downturn. Reluctantly the workers commenced the harvest and began the job of picking the berries before they turned black and rotted.

    One morning, early into the harvest season, no workers presented themselves for the morning sign in. Joe was unaware that the Ganiga had assembled on a tribal boundary and were ready to fight in a conflict between two other tribes - a fight the Ganiga were not directly involved in. As is customary, an allied tribe of the Ganiga had requested help in a war with a rival tribe and the Ganiga felt duty bound to assist.

    Day after day the tribal fighting continued. With no personnel around to harvest the crop, the berries soon began rotting on the branches and the survival of the plantation reached a critical point. In desperation, Joe used a traditional tribal mourning ceremony to display the imminent death of the plantation to the fighting tribespeople. This plan subsequently backfired when great offence was taken to Joe's abuse of their tribal customs.

    The constant tribal warfare had forced Joe Leahy's family to leave their family home on the plantation and move into a motel in Port Moresby. With each passing day of war, the coffee plantation edged closer to irreversible ruin and Joe and his family discussed the possibility of migrating to Australia. Joe's now elderly uncle and only surviving Leahy brother, Daniel, lived a short distance from Joe and the two had developed a very close relationship over many years. Despite his many health ailments, Daniel helped with the necessary signatures on government paperwork to enable Joe and his family to take their first steps toward migration.

    The once ideal friendship between Joe Leahy and Popina Mai became irreconcilably damaged and Popina sought help from the bank to dissolve the partnership. The optimistic and trusting decision made by Joe to be the guarantor of their business loan began to take on frightening dimensions.

     While Joe and his family were in Brisbane visiting their daughter at boarding school, the violence in the Highlands further intensified. Scores of lives were tragically lost in the brutal fighting and Joe's dream of prosperity for himself and the Ganiga lay in total ruin.

    As was the case with the previous two films in the trilogy, Black Harvest was the deserving winner of many international awards. The film won the prestigious Grand Prix at the Festival Cinéma du Réel in Paris and the AFI Award for Best Documentary, an incredible achievement held by each film in the trilogy.

    Black Harvest is presented as the final instalment in The Highlands Trilogy boxed set.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer for Black Harvest is quite acceptable.

    The film is presented full screen in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Generally the transfer exhibits a good level of sharpness and clarity, although varying degrees of film grain are evident throughout the film. Blacks and shadows were satisfactory.

    Colours appeared well balanced and natural.

    MPEG artefacts were not evident in this transfer. There were no significant film-to-video artefacts, although what appears to be a minor tracking error occurs at 57:04. Film artefacts were negligible.

    English subtitles are burnt into the print and cannot be disabled. The subtitles are clearly visible and legible in yellow.

    This is a single sided, dual layer disc. The layer change has been placed outside of the feature, so there is no disruption.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is minimal, but quite acceptable.

    There is only one audio track available on this DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

    On the whole, dialogue quality was very good. A few passages of English dialogue were a little difficult to understand, but this was not an adverse issue with the audio transfer.

    Audio sync appeared to be very accurate.

    There is virtually no music used in this documentary. Some uncredited traditional music is heard over the closing credits.

    There was no sound separation, despite the fact that the use of Pro-Logic spreads the audio over all speakers.

    The subwoofer was not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The selection of extras is relevant and interesting.


    The menu is of a basic design, silent, static and is 16x9 enhanced.

Featurette - Sunday Review (9:28)

    An excerpt from the Nine Network's Sunday program, circa 1992. This review of Black Harvest is introduced by host Jim Waley and reviewed by Peter Thompson. The review also incorporates interviews with Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson with footage from the film.

Interview - Bob Connolly (18:25)

    This fairly recent interview with Bob Connolly is quite informative about detailing the extreme difficulties in filming Black Harvest as opposed to the two previous films. Bob discusses the dangers of living in a tribal war zone and the problems he and Robin encountered in trying to remain impartial throughout the ordeal.

Featurette - 7:30 Report (7:46)

    An excerpt from around 1992, taken from the ABC program, The 7:30 Report. Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson talk to journalist Justin Murphy about Black Harvest. The segment also has footage from the film incorporated.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    At the time of this review, there is no R1 version available of Black Harvest.


    As previously mentioned, Black Harvest is the most confronting of the three films in the trilogy. The human tragedy that unfolded before Bob Connolly's camera is painful, yet totally compelling. The worthy retention of tribal customs and traditions by the Ganiga unfortunately came at a large human and economic cost. Joe Leahy's dream of bringing western ideology to the Ganiga was treated with similar caution as the previous generation sixty years ago, when the Leahy brothers first walked into the valley. It seems that the more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same.

    The video and audio transfers are both good.

    The selection of extras is highly recommended viewing.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Monday, June 12, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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