Seamann Dan & Friends: Welcome to the Torres Strait

Half-hour documentary; completed October 2005.

Synopsis

Although he has played music most of his life, Seaman Dan only released his first album Follow The Sun at the age of 71. It won ScreenSound Australia’s Inaugural National Folk Recording Award in 2001. His third album Perfect Pearl won the Best World Music Album at the 2004 ARIA Awards, and in 2005 he won the Red Ochre award (the Australia Council's premier Indigenous artist award).

Seaman Dan and his friends have lived and worked in the maritime industry in Torres Strait, particularly on pearling luggers. Seaman Dan was a hard-hat diver in the 40s and 50s and his songs document the work and lifestyles of that time. Of Jamaican and Melanesian heritage, he was born and raised around Thursday Island and Cape York and began working in the maritime industry after World War 2.

Seaman Dan tells wonderful anecdotes - about hanging around in the legendary Darnley Deeps waiting to decompress, about sharks circling him as he waited, and about life on TI both on and off the luggers. His recollections recreate a time and atmosphere that is both romantic but also highly dangerous.

His friends include Izzie Shibasaki, the son of a renowned Japanese pearl-shell diver and a Torres Strait islander woman, who has also worked on pearling boats as well as playing ukelele with Seaman Dan for many years; and Ina & Cessa Mills, who were part of the well-known Mill Sisters singing group, and were both married to pearl-shell divers (one Japanese and one Indonesian) so experienced the absence of their husbands for extended periods of time (up to 10 months) while they maintained their multicultural families and communities. They tell of a history that is unknown to most Australians.

Awards and Screenings

  • Honourable Mention at the 2006 Chris Awards in the USA
  • Official Selection at 2006 St Kilda Film Festival in Australia,
  • Official Selection at 2006 Heart of Gold Festival in Australia,
  • Official Selection at 2006 Festival der Nationen in Austria,
  • Official Selection at 2006 Independents’ Film Festival in the USA
  • Official Selection at 2007 International Festival of Short Films on Culture (Iffc) in India.

Creative Team

  • DIRECTOR / PRODUCER – Fiona Cochrane
  • ASSOC. PRODUCER – Karl Neuenfeldt
  • CINEMATOGRAPHER/EDITOR – Zbigniew Friedrich
  • SOUND RECORDIST – Jonathon Lee

Distribution

  • Distributed educationally in Australia by VEA, www.vea.com.au
  • Distributed internationally by Galloping Films, www.gallopingfilms.com