Cook Islands filmmakers Glenda Tuaine, Karin Williams and Marino Evans at the Pacific Islanders in Communications reception at the Hawai’i International Film Festival. SUPPLIED/23102041
Taonga, a short documentary film about Cook Islands artist and activist Mike Tavioni, directed and produced by local filmmaker Glenda Tuaine, has been screened worldwide and most recently at the Hawaii International Film Festival.
The film has won a number of awards worldwide,
including Best Short Documentary at the Brussels International Film Festival in
2022, and has screened at top festivals in Dubai, France, the United States,
Tuaine attended the Hawaii Film Festival last week
with her daughter Ruby Newport and is stoked to have had the opportunity to
experience a screening with “Pacific Islanders in Communications”.
Her short 15-minute documentary – Taonga: An Artist
Activist – focuses on the life of Cook Islands taonga, legendary artist,
mentor, activist, and entrepreneur Mike Tavioni.
It featured in the cluster of Pasifika short films
programme in Hawaii Film Festival where she had the opportunity to represent
the Cook Islands in that film space.
“It blew me away. Seeing our stories on the big screen
is an emotional and empowering experience that I feel very grateful to have,”
Tuaine was “amazed” at how well Taonga had done when
she was notified about the documentary’s inclusion in the Hawaii Film Festival,
which is listed as one of the top 10 festivals globally.
Having Taonga screened in Hawaii means “so much” to
“I was quite blown away actually, because I know how
important the Hawaiian Film arena is and because Pacific Islanders in
Communications have helped fund my film, they were the first ones who backed my
idea,” she said.
“And to be able to speak to people in that industry out of America, to be able to say we have filmmakers in the Cooks that are capable and able of telling stories, and that although we are a really under-resourced and underfunded small industry here, we punch above our weight. And Taonga had done that,” Tuaine said.
She said there are filmmakers on Rarotonga including
Mii Taokia who are “punching above their weight without the support that they
should quite rightly have”.
“The fact is that all those people who helped make Taonga we made something that was of incredible value of the global film industry because they want to put it on.”
Tuaine added Taonga wouldn’t be screening at these
film festivals if it wasn’t made well.
She said the Cook Islands are representing “really
solidly” at an international film festival of absolutely high standard which
fills her with pride and excitement for the future, knowing that the Cooks
filmmakers have the ability to create films “and tell our own stories with
“People actually want to see the truthful and
endearing stories of our time, the honesty of our time, the rough edges of our
time, the not-so-great issues that hurt us and provoke us. That’s what makes an
Tuaine said the Cook Islands have a diverse group of
people who are actually genuinely interested in being part of the film
“Across different generations, we have a real good
cross-section of kopu (people) who share this passion.”
While in Hawaii, Tuaine is eager to learn, see and
connect with as much as she possibly can, including people and organisations
Cook Islands can collaborate with.
Taonga has taken 18 months to make with interviews,
animation sequences, an original soundtrack, and captured many locations on
In 2020, Tuaine was funded by Pacific Islanders in
Communications to make her award-winning short documentary film Taonga and in
2021 she co-directed Atui Akaou – Reconnect, a TV feature film on Cook Islands’
resilience at the time of Covid for Pasifika TV.
The film was also funded by Creative New Zealand, Bank
of the Cook Islands, and crowd-sourced with Give a Little. The film was
mentored by Lala Rolls, (Aotearoa) and Cook Islander Karen Williams whose film
also featured in Hawaii.
Tuaine is an event, arts producer, and promoter based
in Rarotonga. She is company director of Motone Productions with her husband
Maurice “Mo” Newport.