Power Meri: Bringing power to women’s Rugby League in Papua New Guinea
Power Meri is a powerful documentary following the journey of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Orchids, the nation’s first ever women’s Rugby League team on their journey to the Rugby League World Cup in 2017.
Directed by Joanna Lester and featuring the voices of several players and coaches, Power Meri showcases the power of Rugby League in bringing positive change to a country, and has recently been officially selected for the Oceania International Documentary Film Festival 2019 in Tahiti.
In support of the film, the Lowy Institute hosted an exclusive screening at Sydney’s Dendy Opera Quays, with the audience also getting the chance to meet and talk with the director, who had been filming with the Orchids’ since selection trials just three months before the competition.
“A couple of things that people have said repeatedly about the film is that it’s very rare to see a really high quality film shot in Papua New Guinea and released in Papua New Guinea,” Lester explained.
“The peoples’ expectations of seeing Papua New Guinea on screen are very low, so to see a film that tells a positive and uplifting story with a local soundtrack, has been really well-received.
People also really appreciated that the film does tell the bigger picture and portrays the Orchids as something more than just a Rugby League team.
Lester also said since the Women’s Rugby League World Cup, participation numbers in the PNG Rugby League have doubled in the past year.
Photo: Still from Power Meri (2018)
The Lowy Institute, the hosts of the screening, are an Australian-based think tank with a global outlook, that hosts events and distinguished speakers from around the globe on foreign policy, defence, politics, aid and development, journalism, sport, science and the arts.
Lester said the organisation has been a huge supporter of Power Meri since the early days, and they share her belief in the power of Rugby League to positively change a country.
“Not only is Rugby League a very powerful development tool in PNG, but it’s also one of those things that bring Australia and Papua New Guinea together,” she said.
In Australia, so many people have said they’ve never thought about Papua New Guinea in this way before, they didn’t know much about the country and they’ve never seen it portrayed like this.
“A number of Papua New Guineans have also said they’ve never seen their country portrayed like this because you don’t normally see the settlements and the less visually appealing parts of the nation on film.”
Photo: Still from Power Meri (2018)
The film has also seen a positive step forward in Women’s Rugby League in PNG, with a number of school girls’ competitions in regional areas having been started across the country.
In early 2018, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) said violence against women and children in Papua New Guinea occur at almost pandemic levels, and an estimated 70 per cent of women will be raped or physically assaulted in their lifetime.
“People are starting to see the team as more than just a team, they’re seeing the bigger picture and how it’s bringing more opportunities for women,” Lester said.
“The partnership between this film and the NRL is that it’s related to their Voice Against Violence program, and even though the messaging is implicit in the film, it’s driven by the players which is very important.”
Lester also said the best thing everyone can do to help spread the message of Power Meri is to host a screening, or to share their knowledge of the film with their family and friends.
Check out the film’s website HERE to find out more.