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Stranded Pearl: Taking our films to the world: ‘It’s made for people in other parts of the world’

Saturday 18 February 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Entertainment, Local, National

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Stranded Pearl: Taking our films to the world: ‘It’s made for people in other parts of the world’
A scene from the movie Stranded Pearl featuring lead actors Anand Naidu (Aunanda Naaido) and Kristy Wright. 23021711

The red carpet has been rolled out and rolled up as the work in promoting a Cook Islands made feature film overseas begins.

It had all the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood film premiere.

A who’s who attended.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown was there and has since endorsed the project, saying it has potential to attract more filmmakers here . . . “The spinoffs we would like to see,” in his words.

Also lining up for complimentary popcorn and fizzy drinks were New Zealand high commissioner to the Cook Islands Tui Dewes, acting Australian high commissioner Ruth Baird, Financial Secretary Garth Henderson, Education secretary Danielle Cochrane, Office of the Prime Minister chief of staff Ben Ponia and representatives from local businesses and community groups.

As the lights went out and the screen lit up at the Empire Theatre on Rarotonga last Saturday, they witnessed a rough cut edit of Stranded Pearl – a full length feature shot on Rarotonga.

It has been a dream of local actor and producer Anand Naidu – ten years from go to whoa.

He’s in Auckland finishing the final edit and ironing out sound and effects. 

“We are working on the final technical aspects of colour grade, sound, effects, music, and some final scene and story enhancements.

“There are also minor fixups to ensure that we have the best and most amazing product available. 

“We will have a final digital cinema package ready in three weeks where we will showcase it to our distributors and all our sponsors and media partners in New Zealand, who will then fix the best date for the film to be released.”

“I believe it has the goods” – Ken Naz. PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS/23021811
“I believe it has the goods” – Ken Naz. PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS/23021811

At the moment it looks like the film will be released to New Zealand at the end of April.

The project has grown to involve a cast and crew of more than 100, and has buy in from Cook Islands and New Zealand.

Naidu says the post production team is “all pumped up and fully focussed”.

“Our team who came to the Cooks are pumped up and our North America distributor Ken Naz who has released over 100 movies while he was a chief executive of Eros International is very excited about what it can achieve for the country. 

“We have a strategy for release in New Zealand and the Pacific, and then that follows onto Australia and North America. 

“We are at the moment working on a film release plan, trailer launch, premiere and release strategy.” 

Naz, who was here for the premiere, says he’s confident in the product.   

He owns and operates a company which distributes films in the United States and other territories.

“I met Anand a few years back when he had just made Vindaloo Empire (2011), I was a boss at Eros International, a Bollywood film studio, and formed K Global in 2018. 

“This movie is unique, the location is unique, the challenges are unique, it’s a lot more relaxed here, a beautiful space for acting.”  -  Aleisha Rose.  PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS/23021813
“This movie is unique, the location is unique, the challenges are unique, it’s a lot more relaxed here, a beautiful space for acting.” - Aleisha Rose. PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS/23021813

“He told me he was working on Stranded Pearl, we said we would work on it, I came to Rarotonga to discuss a release strategy for North America, I release movies worldwide.”

Naz says he will release the film in cinemas across major cities, then move on to a digital strategy.  

The success in New Zealand will translate into other areas, it is a “moving target”, he says.

“It will create a hype, you have a flag to wave. 

“I believe it has the goods, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t believe it. 

“It’s made for people in other parts of the world. 

“Anand is committed to making this region known worldwide, and will continue to work on movies.”    

There are some high profile names among the cast and crew, people Naidu has worked alongside in film and theatre over the years.

Rawiri Paratene needs little introduction, having made multiple films, including Whale Rider and The Insatiable Moon. 

Paratene plays William in Stranded Pearl – boss of Cook Islands Marine.    

“My best mate Graham Murchie introduced me to the script and the producer Anand,” Paratene says.

“He said I was a Cook Islander and needed to come home; I had finished doing Pop Up Globe in Auckland, and as soon as this was finished I was over to the Cooks for this beautiful little movie. 

“My initial thoughts were that this is a great script and my negative role was interesting, I knew I had to come.” 

“I love the Cook Islands as the Cook Island Maori people remind me of the friendly Maori people and our life when we were young.” - Rawiri Paratene. CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF/23021815
“I love the Cook Islands as the Cook Island Maori people remind me of the friendly Maori people and our life when we were young.” - Rawiri Paratene. CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF/23021815

Paratene says an opportunity to work on a Cook Islands film was exciting and something he was looking forward to. 

“I love the Cook Islands as the Cook Islands Maori people remind me of the friendly Maori people and our life when we were young. 

“The team who were producing the film were passionate and their vision for the place, and what that will do for the Islands, was inspiring.” 

Paratene says he loved the hospitality of the production team, and the love the team had among themselves. 

“I did not see anything challenging as I was looked after very well. 

“This is a very nice film, I am proud to be part of it and am proud of what the team has produced.” 

Aleisha Rose plays the role of Anita.

Born and raised in Brisbane, she landed her first television role as a host on Channel 7’s Lab Rats Challenge and continued her acting training in Sydney, before joining the Fox Film production of The Wolverine in 2012. She was then offered a lead role in Toybox for Network Seven in 2013 before she was cast as in a lead role in the feature film Arrowhead in 2017. 

She was in Los Angeles when an agent reached out to her about Stranded Pearl.

“I got an email from the casting team, I originally auditioned for another character and they offered me Anita.”

Rose flew to Rarotonga in 2017, her first time here, and met the crew, “everyone was so friendly”. 

“This movie is unique, the location is unique, the challenges are unique, it’s a lot more relaxed here, a beautiful space for acting. 

“I’m really proud of the film, it comes with all the challenges to overcome, I’m proud of the locals considering the obstacles, it is the distance, the internet here, it is a really big challenge.”            

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