Misima Documentary, Misima Movie, Papua New Guinea

After her remote island is turned upside down by a massive gold mining operation, an indigenous village woman is left with the struggle of piecing together her shattered life by bravely fighting for the recognition of her land rights, by striving to maintain her mountain garden, and by reclaiming her only daughter from her ex-husband's relatives.


The first documentary about the indigenous people of Misima Island


Misima is a breathtaking story about what happens when our lives escape our control, and how we rediscover our resilience by refusing to remain passive.


In 1985, an open-pit gold mine (Placer Dome, Inc.) began operations on the remote island, which spurred dramatic changes in the lives of Misimans. Village men’s unexpected and unequal access to employment and new cash had profound effects throughout the island. Marriages and families buckled under the culture shift, neighboring clans fought over royalty payments and land rights, and villagers adopted Western ideas of industrialization, employment, and consumerism.

One village woman, attempting to regain control over her destiny, reflects a central aspect of what it means for all women to live in the modern world.

In traditional culture, women are expected to defer to men, are not invited into public or political spaces, and are valued primarily for their domestic responsibilities. So today, many years after the mine ceased operations, the long-term social impacts are still widely felt, especially in the lives of village women. Misima paints an intimate portrait of one of these women, Nevenak, whose marriage fell apart because her husband followed the allure of money and cheap thrills of the Western mine workers’ lifestyle.

When her ex-husband unilaterally moves their teenage daughter to live with relatives on another island, Nevenak's control over her single life as a mother slips. When a local land dispute with a rival clan threatens her access to the land she uses for subsistence farming, Nevenak's life unravels even further. One day, she has an epiphany and refuses to remain a passive actor in her story. She becomes determined to secure her daughter’s future by winning their matrilineal land rights herself.

Without role models, Nevenak journeys into uncharted territory as a female clan leader. She bravely breaks cultural restrictions by beginning to defend her land rights in public. She struggles to maintain her mountain garden all by herself. She spends her evenings writing tragically heartfelt letters to her displaced daughter across the sea.

Her world was turned upside down by a massive gold mine operation and the corrosive effects of Westernization, but Nevenak's resilience will inspire audiences everywhere.



There’s been almost no research yet about what life has been like since the [Misima Mines] closure.
— Jordan Haug

Jordan’s Research is Supported by

The National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation

The Social Science Research Council

The Social Science Research Council

The Wenner-Gren Foundation

The Wenner-Gren Foundation

The University of California Regents

The University of California Regents

These funds are strictly for the ethnographic fieldwork. The documentary production is funded separately.





Which means "My heart to you all" in the spoken language of Panamisima.

Brooke Denton

David Spicer

David Wissink

David & Deon Sagers

Dayna & Adam Pitcher

Diane Weeks

Dot Todman

Edward Turner

Ellen Blaser

Etan Zimmet

James Dymond

Jay Weisbrod

Jeff Roodman

Jenifer Morris

Jennifer Taylor

Jessica Steele

John McLaughlin

John & Linda Pitcher

Johnny & Randi Spicer

Kathleen Blackwell

Laurie Rinck

Leigh Sawyer

Lisa Steele

Mark Stubbs

Mark & Dhessy Spicer

Melissa Spencer

Michaela von Schweinitz

Michelle Bush

N. E. Martinez

Natalia Latyszonek

Neville Hayes

Nichole Alexander

Nicole Pitcher

Otis & Tennli Nelson

Randy Gubler

Rexine Pitcher

Richard Monsen

Shanna & Walt Spicer

Shawn Zumbrunnen

Stacey Bright

Steven Brewster


Susan Cohen

Erick Herring

Sydnie Suskind

Tobey Cotsen Victor

Viviana Serrano

Sponsored by Canon, Inc USA

We’re fiscally sponsored by IDA a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization & recipients of the Canon USA, Inc sponsorship


If you want to support the project, the best thing you can do is share our content to help spread awareness. If you can donate, all donations go through the IDA and are tax-deductible. Any amount is helpful and greatly appreciated!

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Key Creative Personnel & Advisors

Director & Producer Bryan Pitcher (Misima Documentary)
"Lets give Misimans the chance to tell their story." —Bryan Pitcher

BRYAN PITCHER edited and associate-produced the feature documentary, Conversations With Nickle, which won Best Feature Documentary Award (Sedona Intl. FF) and was picked up by HBO. He associate-produced Faye Dunaway's short film, The Yellow Bird, which made its world premiere at Cannes. Bryan associate-produced and was a consulting editor for the international award-winning short film, The Bake Shop Ghost, which screened at 80 festivals around the world and won 20 awards for best short film. After directing and editing Scott Grimes' (American Dad!, The Orville, ER) music video for his top 20 contemporary hit Sunset Blvd., Bryan looks ahead to directing his first feature documentary, Misima.

Bryan graduated at the top of his class from The Los Angeles Film School, where he produced, wrote, and directed three 35mm student shorts. His thesis project, The Purple Flowers, was fiscally sponsored by the American Cancer Society and screened in United Artist Theaters in Los Angeles to promote cancer awareness. After graduation, Bryan was one of two people selected to study screenwriting at Columbia University's Graduate Film Program for a one-off, two-semester exchange program.

Content Advisor Jordan Haug (Misima Documentary)
"The world needs to know their story." —Jordan Haug

JORDAN HAUG discovered his love for anthropology at the early age of 12 when he checked out a copy of Margaret Mead's Growing Up in New Guinea from a library in Tokyo, Japan. It was then and there he decided to devote his life to anthropology and understanding different cultures. This led him to seek a Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology at the University of California - San Diego. He conducted 20 months of ethnographic research on Misima Island, Papua New Guinea, for his dissertation. His fieldwork included learning the local vernacular and utilizing the typical anthropological methods of participant observation of daily Misiman life. 

Jordan's research concerns how people on Misima hope for greater social equality in times of dramatic deindustrialization and geopolitical decline. In a country heavily dependent on the mineral extraction economy, Misima provides a critical case study on the long-term social impacts of industrial development in the region.

Editorial Advisor Maysie Hoy A.C.E. (Misima Documentary)
"It has the potential to be far reaching." —Maysie Hoy A.C.E.

MAYSIE HOY (ACE) edited The Joy Luck Club, The Player (co-edited), Smoke, What Dreams May Come (shared credit), Freedom Song, Crazy In Alabama, Love Jones, and Freeway. Some of her recent editing credits include Breakthrough, Love Beats Rhymes, and Spare Parts. She received an Emmy nomination for Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors and has been featured with thirty accomplished craftswomen in a book called Great Women in Films.

It was on Robert Altman's Buffalo Bill and the Indians that she first landed a job as an apprentice. There she discovered her passion for film editing. She moved up quickly to a film assistant. Later, she worked as a film and sound assistant on many Altman films and on projects that he produced with directors Alan Rudolph and Robert Benton. Today, she is on the Board of Directors in both the Motion Picture Editors Guild and American Cinema Editors.

Music Composer Russ Howard (Misima Documentary)
"I need to compose a score for this one." —Russ Howard

RUSS HOWARD grew up in the wilds of Southern Oregon on a small farm. Between milking goats and bailing hay, Russ studied the mysterious arts of classical piano and punk guitar. After studying formally at the Berklee College of Music, he moved to Los Angeles where he is a music composer with more than 100 film and TV credits.

Russ began his career doing production work and support writing for many of Hollywood's most celebrated composers, including Oscar winner Mychael Danna (Life of PI, Capote, Little Miss Sunshine). He has scored dozens of features (Hobo With a Shotgun, Family Weekend, Naughty or Nice), television episodes (Dollhouse, Teen Wolf, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Burn Notice), video games (Monsters vs. Aliens, Slims 3, Army of Two), and advertisements. Russ' clients have included Sony, WB Games, Best Buy, and Verizon; and, his music has been heard on every major network and at film festivals around the world, including Sundance, SXSW, and Cannes.

Co-producer Lorette Bayle (Misima Documentary)
"Bryan, films like this one need to be made." —Lorette Bayle

LORETTE BAYLE is an award-winning filmmaker who produced and edited documentaries and PBS programs before studying Film Directing at the California Institute of The Arts (CalArts). She has worked for the Sundance Institute and has assisted the producers at American Zoetrope. After CalArts, Lorette worked at Kodak Motion Picture Film, first with independent feature filmmakers and later as Kodak's Studio Features Account Manager, where she worked directly with production executives at Universal, Sony, Disney, MGM, DreamWorks, Lionsgate, and LucasFilm.

As part of AFI's Directing Workshop for Women, Lorette crafted the short Scarlett-Angelina, which screened at 38 film festivals and won 4 awards. Her other short starring Emmy winner Kathryn Joosten and Marianne Jean-Baptiste called The Bake Shop Ghost, screened at more than 80 film festivals around the world and won 20 awards for best short film. Last year, at the Underexposed Film Festival New York, Lorette was awarded the Woman To Watch Award (Best Female Director).

Project Advisor Denise Zmekhol (Misima Documentary)
"Glad to help in any way that I can." —Amedeo D'Adamo

DENISE ZMEKHOL is a Brazilian-American journalist, an award-winning producer, and director of documentary films and media projects that span the globe. Her documentary films, commercials, and innovative transmedia projects are known internationally for their elegant visual style and deft storytelling.

Her feature documentary Children of the Amazon was supported by the Independent Television Service and broadcast on PBS, as well as on European and Latin American television. Through captivating photos and interviews, Children of the Amazon tells the story of struggle and hope to protect the world’s largest tropical rainforest and its inhabitants. The film won multiple awards at film festivals around the world. Denise co-produced and co-directed the Emmy award-winning PBS series Digital Journey, which explored emerging technologies in their social, environmental, and cultural contexts. She recently co-directed Bridge to the Future a short for PBS/TED Talks and was co-producer on Amir Soltani’s Dogtown Redemption that was exhibited on the PBS series Independent Lens.

Project Advisor Carolyn Pfeiffer (Misima Documentary)
"Yes, count me in!" —Carolyn Pfeiffer

CAROLYN PFEIFFER started her own public relations company in London. Her numerous clients included Robert Redford, Barbara Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Francois Truffaut, and Robert Altman. In Los Angeles, Carolyn formed Alive Films with Shep Gordon. Together they produced Roadie, starring Meatloaf, and Return Engagement, a feature documentary directed by Alan Rudolph about the Timothy Leary & G. Gordon Liddy debates.

Carolyn produced a series of award-winning films including Trouble In Mind and The Moderns (both directed by Alan Rudolph), A Time of Destiny, The Whales of August, Grand Isle, Far North, and Silent Tongue. Today she resides in Marfa, Texas where her work as a producer continues. She just recently executive produced Far Marfa and the documentary Children of Giant for PBS. Carolyn is an active member of the Academy, the former president of IFP West, and was awarded the Pioneer Award by the Lone Star Film Festival in Fort Worth.


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