'There Once Was An Island', directed by New Zealanders Briar March and produced by Lyn Collie, gives three islanders' perspectives on relocating.
Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Lyn Collie, Producer of 'There Once Was An Island'
UPDATE: 'There Once Was An Island' has walked away with the top prize at the festival. The public's prize has gone to a French Polynesian film called 'Homeland - The Return to Rurutu'. Three special prizes were awarded to Hawaiian film 'Nono Newa', to the Australian film 'Bastardy', and to a documentary about New Zealand's Topp Twins.
COLLIE: It's really a story about the island of Takuu, which is 250 kilometres northeast of Bougainville inside Papua New Guinea.
COUTTS: And why did you choose this subject and this story for your documentary?
COLLIE: It's kind of a long story, but I guess the short answer is that I thought it was an important story and a really interesting island, quite unique culturally, and myself and the director were lucky enough to meet with an anthropologist, Richard Moyle, who had worked on the island at the island's request for quite a long time, documenting their cultural practices, music and use it in language. So that gave us a kind of avenue to get into an unusual area and quite a difficult place to access.
COUTTS: Well, it's a climate change theme which is quite topical at the moment. Can you, for those of us who have not seen it, just elaborate on the story line?
COLLIE: Sure. Really what we are doing is a character-based film. So, we're following three people who live on the island or are from the island as they consider the changes that are happening due to the sort of the beginning affect of climate change and what they are going to do in the future. So there is talk of a relocation, which would be organised by the Bougainville government, but of the three people who we look through the eyes of one of them everybody should leave, one reluctantly wants to leave, and the other wants to stay and they all have their kind of specific, different reasons for that and we explore it through the eyes.
COUTTS: So, it's including a terrifying flood. So you've used locals in your documentary obviously. But what kind of impact did that have on them to revisit these kind of things?
COLLIE: Well, I think they were just really shocked, because we actually the flood came towards the tailend of our shoot period, which was a month long and . . . people on Takuu don't react strongly to something, but that does not mean they are not feeling it. So they were frightened basically, and it really I think affected peoples feelings about how long they could continue to live on the island. I think particularly for one character who is like: 'I can't stay here any more. I have to leave because I want my children to grow up somewhere that is going to be safe for them.'
COUTTS: So, you went in a period where there is going to be unstable weather, but obviously you were not expecting you would actually get to shoot a flood?
COLLIE: No, we weren't. I can't really say we were lucky, because it was not a good thing for the people on the island, but it was a really violent illustration of what can happen for people who are so vulnerable. They are vulnerable because the island is so close to the water, so any kind of extra weather activity is quite serious. But they are also vulnerable because there is not much infrastructure in Bougainville, so they don't get any early warning if something like this is going to happen and it's hard to find out exactly what's happening and how long it is going to last and how bad it is. But also there is no rescue that is really possible. The province only has one service boat which is not always able to go out and there are a number of atolls in the region who all require help. So really what happened to us I guess is that the flood really underscored the political situation that makes them very vulnerable as well as the sort of issues to do with climate.
COUTTS: There once was an island, has it been shown at the 7th Annual Pacific International Documentary Film Festival yet?
COLLIE: Yes it has, it has had three screenings. I have been in the audience for two screenings and I have had feedback from a couple of filmmaker friends who are here and they have been in and I think what the reaction is really that people are really emotionally connecting to the characters and the situation that they face. I mean I say characters, but these are obviously real people and I think the most recent screening got a full house and there was quite a strong audience reaction and a lot of applause and general appreciation for the, I don't know, for the vibe I suppose. I think people are able to connect on a personal level rather than simply just understanding like the climate issues and the political issues. It sort of goes a little deeper, so that's really cool.