Recently, we were contacted by an academic based in Darwin who was after a research copy of Below The Wind. This is one of our older documentaries produced in 1993 and is about Indonesian sea gypsies as they struggle to continue their traditional customs and fishing in Australian waters.

It is directed by filmmaker John Darling (now deceased) who in 1972 lived in a southern Sulawesi seafaring village whilst refitting a traditional Indonesian boat he and some villagers planned to sail through the archipelago. Three days after setting sail Darling and his companions were shipwrecked on a small island that was inhabited by a group of Sama Bajo or sea nomads. It was here that he first heard from these gentle mysterious people of their voyages through history to Australia’s northern waters. After a further 14 years living in Indonesia Darling took up a teaching position at Murdoch University in Perth where he met young producer Andrew Ogilvie who was debuting he first documentary The Joys of The Women for ABC TV.

Around this time Indonesian fisherfolk were being arrested for ‘illegally’ fishing in Australian waters. Darling and Ogilvie decided to team up to tell another side of the story.

Below The Wind was filmed over eleven weeks between April and November 1993. Together with cinematographer Ian Pugsley and sound recordist Glenn Martin, Darling and Ogilvie travelled to remote locations in Sulawesi and Rote, the Kimberleys and Arhnem Land. Working conditions were tough, especially in South East Sulawesi where the crew lived for three weeks in cramped quarters on decks of small Indonesian fishing boats as they sailed between the island homes of the Sama Bajo people.

The documentary first went to air as a part of the ABC Big Picture series on 13 January, 1993. It remains a popular educational program for schools and researchers, and we’ve now made Below The Wind  available on DVD at our website store.