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Cook Islands docufilm bags more international awards

Wednesday 3 May 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Entertainment, National


Cook Islands docufilm bags more international awards
Taonga filmmaker, producer, director Glenda Tuaine and director of photography Raed Teariki Ra. Photo: SUPPLIED/22081025

A film about renowned Cook Islands artist Mike Tavioni has been winning awards at festivals abroad, with its director calling on for more support for Cook Islands artists.

At the Cinema de Indie Festival in India last week, Taonga: An Artist Activist won five awards, including best real life documentary short film, best cinematographer (Raed Teariki Ra), best sound design (Maurice Newport and Jim Perkins), best sound engineer (Maurice Newport), and best female director (Glenda Tuaine).

The film examines artist Mike Tavioni’s life and activism. Director Glenda Tuaine said the awards were another validation that the Cook Islands has the capabilities to “tell our own stories and make films that resonate to the global community”.

“Winning awards at the moment gives the film traction and gets the conversation happening with international festivals to look at films from the Cook Islands,” Tuaine said. 

“What has been the most rewarding is the positivity that our local community has given back to us. So many people are proud of the film and what it is achieving.

“What film makers in the Cook Islands need is of course some recognition from the higher powers and some constructive support. Yes, that does mean funding assistance.”

Tuaine said Taonga: An Artist Activist was made during Covid-19 through funding from Pacific Islanders in communication based in Hawaii and Pacific Arts Creative New Zealand.

“We sourced sponsorship from the Bank of the Cook Islands and our Givealittle page,” she said.

“Film is not cheap to make and requires funding and funders that understand the process of independent film making and allow you to make your film independently.”

Tuaine acknowledged the distribution process was a challenge.

“We are now in the distribution phase of the film and as independent film makers initially we funded that process through Motone (Productions),” she said.

“What that means is when you make a film you need to submit it to a film distribution platform, and it has a cost.

“There are millions of films all submitting to festivals to be selected everyday so it is an extremely competitive marketplace.”

However, Tuaine said as the film started to get selected for festivals and then began to win awards, it “shifted to another level in the film distribution funnel and now I am being invited to submit to festivals by the festival programmers and directors with the most recent invitations from London and another World Festival of Arts in Sydney for 2024”.

“Many of these I am invited to attend however as we are self-funding our distribution of this film and film festivals only partially fund attendance, I can simply not afford to go and represent the Cooks,” Tuaine said.

Tuaine said she was in script development for her next film, but needed to find funding to make it happen.

“With awards now under my belt, we all hope that funding access can become an easier pathway, but at the end of the day you are funded on the worth of the story and the skills of the team,” she said.

“I am confident with the rising talent we have in the Cooks that more films will be funded. What we need is some support from a Cook Islands entity or government agency.”

Taonga: An Artist Activist, a 15-minute short documentary,has now screened in 12 International Film festivals. Screenings have happened in Kurdistan, Brussels, Paris, Geneva, Sydney, Otaki NZ, Melbourne, Goa in India and is currently screening in Victoria, Canada at the Short Circuit Pacific Rim Festival and in Salt Lake City, USA at the Masima Film Festival.

“We are excited that the Taonga: An Artist Activist will (be) screened in Rarotonga as part of the NZHC Matariki Celebrations and is part of the PIURN Conference in July at USP, so stay tuned,” Tuaine said.