Funding for the project came from the United Nations Global Environment Fund Small Grants Programme run out of the Cook Islands Red Cross Society and coordinated by Teuru Tiraa-Passfield.
The UNGEF-SGP-Cook Islands funding allowed a two-person team to travel to Pukapuka and document its rich conservation practices.
Filmmaker Gemma Cubero del Barrio trained and worked with a local production team. All the drone and underwater footage seen in the film was shot by Kolee Tinga, the tertiary education coordinator, who has a passion for filmmaking.
The trip also included running climate change storytelling media workshops at Niua School with coproducer Amelia Rachel Hokule’a Borofsky.
The narration for the film comes from dozens of interviews with Pukapukans from 2015 to 2017.
A small group of writers took excerpts and wove together a communal environmental poem from the perspective of the atoll and her people. Writer Johnny Ngatokorua Frisbie reads this communal poem with haunting clarity over stunning images of the atoll.
Pukapuka/Nassau still strictly enforce the Laui (R’aui) system. This system of indigenous conservation protects a particular resource for a given period of time. It requires careful environmental monitoring and a constant feedback loop about what species are plentiful and when. The Kau Wo Wolo (traditional chiefs) strictly enforce the laui (r’aui) with the support of the villages. Pukapuka/Nassau has not lost this tiaki kai or this knowledge. When the youth know their environment, they’ll know how to conserve it for future generations. As director Cubero said in a statement, “I was impressed in Pukapuka and Nassau with the deep respect and vast knowledge everyone from the elderly to the smallest children still had for their ecological environment.”
A team from Pukapuka to Hawaii to Los Angeles put the finishing touches together. After the world premiere in Pukapuka, the film will show at the Wairoa Film Festival in Aotearoa as part of their Moana Nui A Kiwa Shorts and then at a few other film festivals in the Pacific.
The film will premiere in Rarotonga on 6-10 August, as part of Te Kuki Airani Film Festival at Empire Cinema. This free festival curated by Joshua Baker aspires to highlight indigenous cinema, share unique stories, and highlight the culture and traditions of the Cook Islands.
After the film festival circuit, it will show on Cook Islands Television and be freely available online for educational and cultural purposes.
The production unit would like to thank the many hands and many voices past and present that made this communal, collaborative, grass roots film a reality. This includes the following creative team: Gemma Cubero del Barrio, Amelia Borofsky, Johnny Frisbie, Kyung Lee, Kolee Tinga, Vicente Franco, Gabby Faaiuaso, Ray Day, Seve Taunga, Kevin and Mary Salisbury, Mailalo Melota, Anna Katoa, Philip Perkins, Relja Penezic, Ani O’Neill, Milly Tamaki, Mozela Teiha-Tua, Pio Lavalua, Pasha Carruthers, and Teuru Tiraa-Passfield. -