THE HUNGRY TIDE – On the Night and reviews

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Video of Q&A on the night

Part1,  Part2 with part3 to come.

TOM ZUBRYCKI – producer/director/writer

Tom Zubrycki has for the last 30 years mapped Australia’s changing social and political landscape. He Tom has directed 14 documentaries, many of them feature-length, and produced another 12 with emerging filmmakers.

As director, Tom’s evolved a strongly authored style focusing round a personal response to the big issues of the day. Respected for his observational story-telling style and his ability to get close to his subjects, Tom’s films display a high level of engagement with the subject matter. His key associates include a long-time collaboration with editor Ray Thomas.

Tom’s most highly regarded films include Kemira – Diary of a Strike (1984), a blow-by-blow account of an underground sit-in strike in a mine near Wollongong which won him an AFI award for Best Film; Billal (1995), the dramatic aftermath of a racially motivated incident involving a Lebanese teenage boy and his family; The Diplomat (2000), about former exiled East Timorese leader Jose Ramos-Horta, and the final two years of his 25-year campaign to secure his homeland’s independence. The film secured two AFI awards – Best Film and Best Direction; and Molly & Mobarak (2003), a story about a refugee from Afghanistan who finds work in an Australian country town and falls in love with a local teacher.

In 2010 the Australian International Documentary Conference presented Tom with the Stanley Hawes Award “in recognition of outstanding contribution to documentary filmmaking in Australia”.

More information on his various films, plus articles and background pieces are on his website.


Phil Glendenning

Phil is the director of the Edmund Rice Centre. He was one of the co-founders of Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) and for ten years was National President. He has served on the Boards of the Australian Council for Social Service (ACOSS), various committees of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, and the Centre for an Ethical Society. He is a current Board Member of the Refugee Council of Australia, and ANTaR. In 2008 he was awarded the Sir Ronald Wilson Award for Human Rights by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Australian Catholic University in 2007. In recent years he led the research team for the Deported To Danger series which monitored the safety of rejected asylum seekers in 22 countries, and resulted in the internationally screened documentary, A Well Founded Fear. With a background in education and political science, today he is primarily involved in human rights education, and peace and reconciliation work in Australia and internationally.


BA, Ba (Hons), Dip Teach, Dip RE, UnivD


2005 Perkins Award for Social Justice, Catholic Commission for Social Welfare

2006 Edmund Rice Medal

2006 Mercy Foundation Award

2007 Honorary Doctorate Australian Catholic University

2008 Sir Ronald Wilson Award for Human Rights by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID)

news & Reviews

Drowning In Sorrow
June 10, 2011

Tim Elliott
June 3, 2011

The Hungry Tide focuses on those islanders suffering on the front line of climate change, writes Tim Elliott.

High tide is a bad tide in the village of Tebekenikoora, in the low-lying Pacific island nation of Kiribati. As the water rises, the waves slosh over the makeshift seawall, seeping through the village, up the crushed-coral streets and into the houses, taking anything that isn’t battened down. ”It’s a wasteland,” says the local school teacher, Aberi Iota Tabaka, who has moved his house to avoid the water. Every high tide, Tabaka’s school room gets flooded.

Tebekenikoora isn’t so much the frontline in the war on climate change as a seemingly doomed outpost. It also provides some of the most affecting footage in Tom Zubrycki’s new film, The Hungry Tide, an important documentary that explores the plight of Kiribati and one woman’s battle to save it.

”I wanted to put a human face to climate change,” Zubrycki says.

”And I wanted people to see a representation of the issues confronting a place that most seem to have forgotten about.”

Straddling the equator in the central Pacific, Kiribati (pronounced ”Kiribas”) is home to 110,000 people across 33 atolls. Most live just two metres above sea level, making them particularly vulnerable to the climate change-induced rise of the sea level. As Zubrycki’s film demonstrates, moderate rises have devastated the islands, chewing up coastal roads, contaminating wells and sweeping away crop lands. ”Kiribati is really the canary in the coalmine,” he says. ”It will disappear if change doesn’t come.”

Zubrycki’s protagonist is Maria Tiimon, a shy Kiribati woman who now lives in Sydney. As the Pacific outreach officer for a Catholic advocacy group called the Edmund Rice Centre, it’s Tiimon’s job to alert the world to the plight of her homeland. The film follows Tiimon as she holds workshops with schools and community groups, catering both to her work and the needs of her extended family – or ”Noah’s Ark”, as she calls them – who still live back in Kiribati.

”You have to understand how tiny Kiribati is,” she says. ”Most of the islands, when you stand in the middle, you can see both sides: you can hear the waves breaking on both sides at once. With the erosion, many of the people are moving inland from the coastal areas but there’s nowhere to go to.”

Tiimon’s family and work make up the twin strands of Zubrycki’s film, providing alternate perspectives on climate change’s grim reality. Travelling home to visit the family following the death of her mother, for instance, Tiimon consults her ailing father. ”It causes us great sadness when we notice the tides encroaching on our land more and more each year,” he says. ”It’s our belief that it’s all due to the white man’s advanced knowledge. Us brown people, our knowledge has also increased but our knowledge has not destroyed anything.”

For Maria, then, climate change becomes less an environmental issue than a human-rights issue – a problem of justice.

”Industrial countries are causing change in the climate,” she says, ”and we are the first to feel the consequences.”

This is the message she takes to the climate-change conference in Copenhagen, where the Kiribati delegation battles to be heard among the gabfest. Tiimon and her team give their talks and perform their dances; they show a short film and brief the journalists but it quickly becomes apparent her people are drowning not only in seawater but in global indifference.

Indeed, watching Tiimon and the delegation being ground to dust by the wheels of international diplomacy is one of the more moving parts of the film; at one stage the teary, shocked-looking Kiribatis watch on as a group of young protesters are bundled on to a bus by security forces, each group no doubt empathising with the powerlessness of the other.

After failing to agree to stabilise emissions – thanks in part to Australia, which pressured neighbouring island Tuvalu to withdraw its bid – the conference offered low-lying nations a $30 billion ”adaptation fund”. (Two years later, that sum has risen to $100 billion, most of which has yet to materialise.) And while Zubrycki then follows Tiimon to a subsequent climate-change conference in Cancun, the film assumes an air of inevitability.

Even Kiribati’s President, Anote Tong, concedes that relocation is unavoidable and that all efforts must be made to ensure his people can ”move with dignity”.


June 8-19, various city venues,, $15-$17. The Hungry Tide screens on June 12, 6pm, Event Cinema 9, George Street.

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