7:00 PM, 24th September, 2016
Tanna co-director Martin Butler – this year’s joint recipient of the Australian Directors Guild Award for Best Direction in a Feature Film – joins us tonight to discuss the storied process of bringing the people and culture of Vanuatu to the big screen for the very first time.
Star-crossed lovers, feuding families, a forbidden romance. Don’t worry – you haven’t accidentally stumbled upon a review for the umpteenth film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel.
The first film shot entirely in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, Tanna tells the tale of two lovers from the Yakel tribe who are torn apart when one of them is forced into an arranged marriage to broker peace with a neighbouring rival tribe. The young couple defy their elders and flee into the forest, putting them – and, inadvertently, their entire village – at risk of violent reprisals.
It may be a tale as old as time, but this is a remarkable narrative debut for accomplished Aussie documentarians Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, with an equally fascinating behind-the-scenes story to boot. The duo spent seven months living with the Yakel, and based their folktale on a true romance that took place there in the 1980s. Their screenplay was written in close collaboration with the villagers, and the film is populated entirely by locals – people who had never even seen a film before, let alone appeared in one!
The end result is both deceptively simple and lavishly cinematic; a fascinating glimpse into tribal life, interspersed with a stirring and universal love story. Even more impressive is the fact that Tanna was effectively made by a two-person crew, with Dean behind the camera and Butler on sound.
Simply stunning on so many levels, this is a hidden gem of a film that you must make every effort to see.