That person was an older man from Aitutaki, whose wisdom and vision inspired award-winning writer and director David Gould to create the script that Film Raro organisers chose first from a pool of 200 contenders.
In my quest to devote a column to each of the Film Raro productions, I contacted Gould, who is already busy tackling his next film project from his Wellington studio.
He told me this project traces back a decade to a time he met the late Tauono Raela, a man whose friendly face appears before the film’s credits, accompanied by this message: “We will forever be touched by your warmth and wisdom”.
Gould met Tauono, who died in 2009, when he and his now-wife eloped to Aitutaki to marry. The couple visited Tauono’s Amuri restaurant – an establishment wife Sonja continues to run in his absence – the day before their wedding.
“He was such a wise old soul and talked about life and marriage,” Gould wrote to me in an email. “My wife and I felt really touched by the knowledge he passed onto us.
“When the FilmRaro video (challenge) went up on Facebook I thought about our experiences in the Cook Islands and knew that I wanted to make a film, not about coconuts and cocktails on the beach, but about someone who comes to the island and is changed by the knowledge and wisdom of the local people.”
That theme – the transfer of knowledge from a person who’s felt or lived something to a person who’s yet to – found its way into the film’s plotline.
In a nutshell: to teach a wayward tourist boy about honesty and integrity, a fisherman imparts to him an old tale about a chief who used seeds to teach a group of young local boys about the same principles.
The chief gave to each of them a seed, and promised to gift his fishing vaka to the boy whose grew the tallest tree.
Young Piri’s seed didn’t grow into anything. Embarrassed, Piri was reluctant to show to the chief his failed project, but to his surprise, he ended up winning the challenge and the prize. The chief applauded Piri for being “the only one with the courage and the honesty to bring me his pot with my seed in it”.
He knew the seeds wouldn’t flower. He knew the other boys cheated, but Piri didn’t.
The lesson, of course, is that “telling the truth isn’t easy, but when you do you never know what reward you might receive”, explains the fisherman who relays the story.
This is a sound moral and one that everyone should heed, of course. But for me, the value of the film is its nod to the power and relevance of old knowledge and to the people who keep it.
For me, the film is a lesson in the value of listening to people more experienced than us, to seeking out the wisdom they’ve gained in the years they’ve had to absorb and contemplate the journey that is life.
I think that’s a lesson we all need to heed, and I think that’s a lesson Gould does a good job of conveying.
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