‘Footsteps’ is based on the legend of One Foot Island. The film tells the story of a father and son who, while travelling in a vaka near Motu Tapuaetai (One Foot Island), spot a war party in the distance. They quickly paddle to the motu, where the son runs to the centre of the island. The father follows, careful to step in his son’s footsteps so the warriors would think he was the only one on the motu.
The film was shot in 20 days with a crew of just three people – director Lennie Hill, Alessandro Brossollet and John Beasley.
The film’s main actors are real-life father and son Quinton Schofield and Quinton Junior. Hill said their close family ties helped them – with no acting experience – bring their characters to life.
“This boy really stood out,” said Hill of Quinton Junior. “He was just phenomenal.”
The crew discussed casting the nine-year-old boy in the role with the Island Council because in many versions of the legend, the character is older. They also sought the council’s permission to film in the lagoon. The film has little dialogue, which Hill says is more challenging for actors.
“People think if you don’t have many words it’s easy – but it’s not. To portray those emotions without words is really hard. So they did an amazing job.”
Hill said they received a lot of help from the locals on Aitutaki to make it happen.
“The locals were our warriors. They made their own costumes. They made a canoe for the father and son and they supplied other canoes for the film The key thing for this is the unsung heroes in Aitutaki. This story has been made in Aitutaki by Aitutakians. Without them it wouldn’t have happened.”
The crew also received help from businesses and government departments.
Cook Islands Tourism flew the crew and their 400kgs of equipment to Aitutaki, and Air Raro saw to it that they got back to Rarotonga. Aitutaki businessman Mike Henry “went above and beyond to help out”, said Hill, including assisting with the logistics of organising the various canoes in the lagoon. Telecom Cook Islands ensured the team had internet access, and gave $100 of phone credit to young actor Quinton Junior. The team were accommodated by Tamanu Beach Resort, and also received help from the Business Trade and Investment Board (BTIB), whale researcher Nan Houser and Steve Doherty at Island Hopper.
Hill, who is based in Singapore and has 32 years of experience in the film industry, said the team are grateful for all the help they received.
“Everyone just made it happen. It was peak (tourism) season, it was the worst time to travel, but everyone made sure we were looked after.
At the same time as filming Footsteps, the crew shot a documentary called ‘A future without culture’, with help from the Ministry of Culture.
“It’s about the preservation of culture, and the importance of Te Maeva Nui,” said Hill.
Footsteps will be submitted to the Fifo Festival in Tahiti and the New Zealand International Film Festival. The crew are planning a public screening in Aitutaki in December. And there are also plans for a feature-length version of Footsteps in the future – check out the Footsteps Facebook page for updates.