7th Oceanic Short Film Night at the Big Theatre, with an appreciative audience

John  Pierrot et amieThis 7th edition of ‘Oceanic short films’ has ended the first ‘off’ day in style. Wallès Kotra, Chairman of AFIFO, accompanied by Marie-Noëlle Frémy and Marie-Christine Lubrano, who are both members of the pre-selection jury, presented it to many spectators who filled the Maison de la Culture Big Theatre. A selection of 18 films, varying from 30 minutes to 1 minute and 30 seconds, produced in French Polynesia (6 short films), Australia (6), New Zealand (3) and New Caledonia (3) was on offer to the public. Once again an evening full of twists, emotion and surprises…fully immersed in Pacific cultures, ‘all that you can expect to discover about Oceanic territories!’

Viewers about to commence an evening such as the ‘Oceanic Short’ night mentally prepare to start a marathon, of a cinematic nature of course. Impatient at the starting line, the signal resounds and in a flash, the lights dim and the screenings begin… Two and a half hours of short films go by in no time! It’s real journey between the cultures of the Pacific, between eras and between the tones and genres it concerns.

The genres proposed are also very varied. Humour and science fiction are common in many short films, although drama prevails as a whole. Australian humour has a sarcastic tone which we never tire of, notably with Fixed, which immerses us in the daily routine of a family – father, mother, the three children and the dog – upset by the sterilisation of their four-legged companion. Two short films produced by the same Australian director and producer team (Venetia Taylor and Daniel Prypchan) tackle the theme of marriage, its dilemmas and paradoxes: Date with Fate, a caricature of speed dating when a mature woman is faced with… her husband; and The Future that, in contrast, but still with this mirror effect, confronts a young couple with their own avatars that have returned from the future, and immediately questions their commitment through the marriage awaiting them. The New Caledonian productions are very much in line, with a much more comical and burlesque tone (Galaxie sondage, against the backdrop of science fiction in a town where humans and the living dead rub shoulders, the main character has to carry out surveys on these strange beings at his peril…), inspired at times by the horror film (La nuit du rôdeur). Without forgetting the Polynesian short film Tahiti (directed and produced by Raurii Gatien), who won the hearts of the public thanks to its jovial and warm humour, exploring the usual Polynesian clichés from a funny perspective, focussed on derision, without forgetting the importance of reasserting the real value of Polynesia, its customs, ancestral culture and traditional soul.

Yet drama is still the most common genre. The audience swings from laughter to emotion in the space of a few seconds, from humour to the cynicism of certain Oceanic realities, through to the graphic dream worlds that are in high demand (Te hope’araa ho Hina) and unique fiction films, while becoming immersed in the authentic landscapes (Tohunga, Ross and Beth), cultures, practices and wisdom of Oceania. This is the case for Au large d’un vie, the first Polynesian production, that tells the tale of Teva, the first Polynesian producer to direct a feature length film, invited to Polynesia to chair the Court des îles festival. Fiction combines with reality in the choice of the popular subject – the dilemma of choosing between the ambition to succeed, such a necessity, a challenge, and leaving everything behind (family, loved ones, the Fenua…). ‘Waiting is awful, especially when waiting for someone who is not coming back…’ moans the friend of the main character at the time. The sacrifice of leaving, and the obstacles which still need to be overcome once gone, come face to face with the family breakdown that this involves, imposes. At the end of the day, the future counts, beyond the exile and on returning to Tahiti: ‘you are linked to this earth by an invisible thread,’ concludes the late grandfather of the main character in a letter that was discovered too late…

Another production from New Zealand, Ross and Beth, revisits the theme of couples and separation, as well as the nature of human relationships. The everyday rural lives of a sexagenarian couple, livestock breeders and milk producers. They are victims of their daily routine to such a point that their relationship has run its course; has run dry… until death suddenly separates them. Only then does the father of the family, now a widow, become aware of the beauty of life, the simplicity of human relationships. When there is nothing left, some comfort is to be found from connecting with nature…except if the younger generation takes over!

Introducing another theme, The Landing – winner of the Court des îles 2015 Public Prize – an Australian science-fictional production by Josh Tanner, immerses the main character (father in farming family, isolated in a rural area) in the paradoxes of the Cold War. ‘Who are the enemies?’ he continues to ask his young son. Then a space capsule crashes in his field in front of his son. Who is the pilot of this UFO? How will the father react to this mid-Cold War intrusion?

To conclude this series, the public favourite is the New Zealand short film Tohunga, directed by Rebecca Collins, immersing us in a rural setting in Aotearoa for 8 minutes, at the bedside of a young, seriously ill Maori. When all seems lost the family calls a Tohunga, a traditional Maori healer using an ancestral ritual ceremony to start the healing process. The whole scene is attentively followed by Mihi, the sister of the young patient, who is captivated by the tapu that surrounds this mysterious healer, that no-one talks about, that no-one touches or looks at, that requires feeding as his sacred character doesn’t allow him to do it himself. His great sacredness seems incomprehensible, except perhaps through the sincerity of a child, who in return has the profound and authentic eyes of this being full of Mana cast upon her. Legal proceedings for carrying out these ancestral skills are underway…

A last reference to Polynesian production with the legend Hina, Te hope’araa no Hina, directed and produced by Leia Chang Soi. Against a background of to’ere, this beautiful graphic animation depicts the famous legend of the goddess Hina, in Tahitian. The values of courage, perseverance and preservation of traditional culture are honoured in this fine production.

Therefore an intentionally eclectic selection for this 7th Oceanic Short Film Night, combining fiction and reality, portraying all Pacific cultures from universal angles and tones, all of which drew the attention of the audience and indeed won them over.