AK: This year’s opening film is another strong piece of work by female filmmakers. Vai is an episodic anthology film, realised by eight female directors, composed of eight stories, set on seven different Pacific islands, each telling the tale of a character named Vai. We see Vai as a child, as an adolescent, as an adult and then later on at some point as a grandmother. It’s a coming-of-age film that is at the same time a film about life as well as about growing older. We also thought the project was so great because it’s really got it all: a female protagonist, female directors, female production. It’s the first film where screenplay, direction and production are all completely in the hands of Kiwi-Pacific women.
What is also striking is that many of the films were produced in New Zealand or Australia. Although the Pacific region certainly encompasses so much more than just these two countries...
AK: That is in fact the case. When you look at our programme, frequently one of these countries is listed as the production country. But if you take a closer look at details like the setting, language or culture, then you suddenly find yourself on a lot of different islands. The main reason for this is the fact that a lot of island residents migrate to New Zealand or Australia to work, study and train there. When they begin realising their film projects they usually try to draw on support such as film funding or other resources from the countries where they went to school, since comparable structures are simply non-existent on the islands.
MR: It’s not easy to identify an established film industry for the greater Pacific region. If you consider all the islands in Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia, usually the production is not based locally. The situation is similar for Hawaii too, although there production typically takes place on the mainland, meaning in the continental USA. That is really quite remarkable when you consider that the Pacific Ocean with all its countless islands takes up about a third of the Earth’s surface. And what’s even more unimaginable: many of these islands will cease to exist in the near future. Hurricanes, rising sea levels, coastal erosion...the islands are disappearing.
Speaking of the environment – to what extent does this topic play a role this year at NATIVe?