Tanna (2015)

Director: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean
Writer: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean, John Collee
Cast: Mungau Dain, Marie Wawa, Marceline Rofit, Charlie Kahla, Albi Nangia, Lingai Kowia, Dadwa Mungau, Linette Yowayin, Kapan Cook, Mungau Yokay, Mikum Tainakou
Seen on: 4.4.2017

On a small pacific island ruled by a volcano and the patriarchal structure of the tribes that live on it, Wawa (Marie Wawa) and Dain (Mungau Dain) are in love. But after altercations with another tribe, Dain – the Chief’s grandson – is supposed to marry a woman from that other tribe to cement their peaceful relationship. But Wawa and Dain can’t accept their separation easily.

Tanna is an unusual film that deserves to be seen, although it also has a few lengths that kept me at a bit of a distance from the film.

Shot on a small, rather remote island in the Pacific where the tribes’ traditions are alive and well, Tanna proves to be an amazing setting and the unobtrusive, calm camera work captures that setting in vibrant colors without the exoticization one has to fear when white filmmakers come to such a location to make a film.

The story – based on local history/legend (I’m not sure) but not unfamiliar to Western audiences, either – emotionalizes quite effectively and you can’t help to sympathize with Wawa and Dain’s predicament. But every once in a while the pacing could have done with a little more speed. When the film starts to drag too much, you start losing the connection with the characters and their situation.

Nevertheless, Tanna practically demands to be seen, if only for the fact that Western audiences very likely will never see anything quite like it. Of course, it would have been even better if the islanders could have told their own story, but the world being what it is, we probably wouldn’t have seen it in that case, if it had got made at all. (As most reviews are sure to mention – as I will now, too – the islanders had never seen a movie camera before this shoot. It would be quite interesting to take the time and dissect the layers of post-colonialism that are draped over this statement and the importance it is given.)

Even though I wasn’t blown away by the story(-telling) of the film, I adored the glimpse in a very different way of living it allowed me. I hope it’s not filtered too much through the white gaze.

Summarizing: Worth checking out.

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