Waiting for John
The history, culture, and conflict surrounding the John Frum Movement, the last surviving cargo cult.
- Jessica Sherry
- Full-Length Film
- Subject Matter
- History, Religion, Military, Vanuatu
- Featured In
- 2015 Deep Waters Pacific Film Series
- 2015 Hawaii International Film Festival - Pacific Showcase
- 25 in 25
- 25 in 25
- 60 Minutes
Waiting for John tells the story of America’s extraordinary impact on one remote South Pacific island and the last surviving Cargo Cult, the John Frum Movement, as we follow the John Frum believers today in the struggle to preserve their culture.
If you had never heard of an airplane or a refrigerator, would you think it was a miracle the first time you encountered one? When the American military landed on a remote island in the South Pacific during World War II, the islanders were amazed by America's fantastic cargo - planes, trucks, refrigerators, canned food. They thought such goods could only come from the Gods. Led by the mysterious prophet John, a religion was born: the John Frum Movement, now considered the last surviving Cargo Cult. Waiting for John explores this extraordinary religion from the perspective of the last village of believers, as they struggle to preserve their way of life in the modern world. In the process this film asks, where do our prophets come from? And what makes people believe?
Waiting for John is a recipient of Production and Completion funding from PIC's Media Fund.
JESSICA SHERRY, DIRECTOR / PRODUCER
Jessica has been working in the documentary industry for over ten years with networks including National Geographic, Discovery Channel, PBS, Sundance Channel and MSNBC and she has shot in many remote corners of the world. Jessica is making her directorial debut with Waiting for John. For the Discovery Channel four-hour special, King Tut Unwrapped, Jessica helped craft the story of the first DNA testing of the King Tut royal mummy family. For PBS Nature’s What Females Want, What Males Will Do, Jessica worked with a team in Ethiopia to tell the story of baboon love and its message about evolution. Jessica also produces short form digital content for many online platforms, including Discovery Digital, PBS, and Aljazeera. Throughout her career, she’s interviewed DNA scientists, DEA agents and piano playing cats, hoping to glimpse into new worlds. Jessica graduated from Northwestern University with a Radio/Television/Film degree concentrating in production and creative writing.
"We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, October 12th, 1940
When I first heard about the John Frum Movement, it was hard to imagine that a religion like this could possibly exist. Believers who march around like US soldiers, raise the American flag, and await some magical cargo to come from America – it all seemed very far-fetched. Yet, I was fascinated by the idea of strange prophet whose existence could not be proven and a belief system that arose as a strange consequence of war. When I met the people of Lamakara, as they became more like friends than documentary subjects, I began to understand the intricacies of their history and belief. I found that though this story has its own unique complications and drama, these people are like many believers all over the world, brought together by faith.
I have always been curious about faith: belief in the unproven, the unseen, and the seemingly miraculous. The story of the John Frum Movement presents a rare opportunity to explore the origins and development of a religion less than 100 years old. The stories of John have never been written down; they are passed from generation to generation and repeated, almost word for word. With this film, the people of the John Frum Movement are able to give viewers a small glimpse into the struggles of their history and the experiences of their everyday lives from their own perspective. Through the tales of these people, I hope this film reveals an untold, bizarre story and makes a distant island people, and their hope for the future, relatable after all.
- Jessica Sherry, Director
Director, Producer, Writer - Jessica Sherry
Editor - Ben Sozanski
Director of Photography - Jessica Sherry
Associate Producer - Todd Leatherman
Composer - Justin Melland
Cultural Advisors and Translators - Numalin Mahana, Werry Narua
Consulting Linguist - Jeremy Hammond
VX Graphics By Pixeldust Studios
Animator - Stephanie Gould
Color Correction - Axel Ericson
Online Facility - Digital Arts
Sound Designer and Mixer - Paul Furedi
For Pacific Islanders in Communications:
Executive Producer - Leanne K. Ferrer
Production Manager - Cheryl Hirasa