Last winter, I visited the Solomon Islands to investigate striking Internet rumors that the Lost Temple of Jerusalem was buried somewhere in a remote jungle of the South Pacific. The report of that adventure—about the temple, about warlords fighting under a Star of David flag, about an Honorary Consul for Israel who had been born in a tiny fishing village on a remote island of the Pacific nation—was published as “Solomon’s Island,” excerpted in Tablet and available as an Amazon Kindle Single. One of the keys I had uncovered in my pre-travel research was a report by Macquarie University anthropologist Jaap Timmer showing evidence of a documentary film titled The Lost Temple Discovery! Part One. It was by all accounts a remarkable piece of self-taught auteur filmmaking, in which the local Solomon Island men who professed to have discovered the Lost Temple told their history in their own words and visual symbols. I couldn’t wait to see it. Timmer, though, was in the process of moving house and couldn’t get to his tape (buried in a box in a basement somewhere) to send it, but he suggested I look for the filmmakers in the Solomon Islands.
In Auki, then, capital of the island of Malaita, I searched for and found the man who was listed as a producer of The Lost Temple Discovery!, Eddie Bibimauri. He was working at a cultural office there in preparation for a Pacific Islands celebration, organizing pan-flute orchestras and traditional dance troupes. He promised to get me a copy of his film, but after traveling north to see the protagonists at their archaeological site, I returned to Auki only to find that he didn’t have any left. Or so he said.
Eventually, I met Jackson Gege, a UNDP worker in Auki who happened to have a personal interest in the matter of Israelites in Malaita. He had a copy of the tape, and the day before leaving the island he handed it to me: a white plastic VHS box from Liberty Productions, with the tag line (sic): “…tacked away in the mountains of North Malaita, the ruins of this sacred site of once a religious community is being discovered. Who could be the builders…and to what god was it build for?” Of course it hadn’t occurred to me that the film wouldn’t be available as a digital file. That afternoon we spent some time wandering around the dark corridors of Auki’s market in search of a pirate who could copy the tape to a file or CD. No such luck: all the VHS machines were long dead. So, as I recount in the piece I wrote, I brought the tape home to New York, where I took it to a transfer joint in Manhattan. Later that day, a worried clerk called: “I’ve tried everything,” he said. “But now I’m certain. There is nothing on this tape.”
The piece published, but my desire to see the film didn’t subside. I kept the box and apparently blank tape on my desk, and it made me dream in the way of magical souvenirs. Eventually, unable to let it lie, I wrote to Timmer again, this time more pleadingly, asking if he could make the effort after all to dig up his old tape. I think he understood the enchantment I was under. A few months later, he managed to rip a digital copy and send it via satellites and undersea cables.
Here then, without commentary and for the first time available to the public, is The Lost Temple Discovery! Part One, the work of producer Eddie Bibimauri, dreamer and lead amateur archaeologist Franklin Daefa, and spiritual guide Anisi “Moses” Maeta’a.
To read “Solomon’s Island,” and better understand the world that created this document, click here.