100 Tikis – an Oceanic UFO
Sometimes disturbing, this film is a bombardment of images, Oceanic clichés, the myth of the vahine, of the nasty native, of Western interpretations of Pacific culture.
A dizzying film that shows the reverse side of the perfect postcard. To better understand the deluge of information that is 100 Tikis, it is necessary to know the Director. Originally from American Samoa, Dan Taulapapa McMullin is a jack-of-all-trades. “I work in a variety of mediums, painting, writing and this movie was inspired from a poem that I wrote “Tiki Manifesto“. At that time I lived in Los Angeles and had friends who were directors and actors from New Zealand. We spent a lot of time together. My friend, also a director, was working on a project about “Tiki Bars”, bars that are filled with tikis. That was how it all started,” says the director. He continues: “In this bar, the cocktails were served in volcanoes. Americans who had come back from the second world war, with their heads full of images, began to do a lot of tiki bars. That is how the project was born.”
A poem, tiki bars galore, Dan goes further in his reflexion. The son of a parish priest, he began research on documentaries, movies and cartoons dealing with Oceania. The artist writes a first draft based on his research. From pencil to brush, he paints on canvas the colored version of his research. Letting his creativity speak for itself, the canvases become works of art that he exhibits in an art gallery of Los Angeles.
“This is when I said to myself, ‘since my works speak of films and of the way Oceania is perceived, maybe it’s a movie that I should do’, and that’s how it all started,” says Dan. And the result is astonishing. It offends certain sensibilities. Some wonder about the spotlights on raerae, why so many caricatures, stereotypes, of Oceanians broken by life, why so much information in a 52 minute documentary!
“I must be a little crazy (laughter). It was a deliberate choice to bombard people with information, precisely an interpretation of the world in which we live. We are ourselves bombarded by information and this mass of information drowns out the indigenous voices. We can no longer hear them,” Dan insists. Between decadence and stereotype, certain Polynesians have a hard time recognizing themselves in the images conveyed. For Dan, he has won his bet: “This is what the film is about. The subject of the film is that it is not about us. This film does not speak about Oceanians. I grew up in American Samoa in a traditional hut where the ground was made with shells and the roof with sugar cane leaves. I taught in the schools of remote villages. I was lodged by pastors who always accepted me as a fa’afafine. We respected each other. In my life, my childhood, I knew intimately Polynesian traditional life. But it should be known that my family is very involved in the history of American Samoa’s colonization. Some were in favour of colonization but were betrayed by the American government. Other members of my family were involved in the movement of resistance and independence of our country. Some were literally crushed,” the director confides.
It is for these reasons, that Dan’s vision of the world, up till now very traditional, began to change. “I worked for the council of arts and humanity in American Samoa but as soon as my work was too politically oriented, they fired me. Since then, I have never again worked for the American Samoa government. And now when I go to Samoa, I no longer go to American Samoa, I go the Independent State of Samoa to live my life as an artist,” the director of 100 Tikis tells us. “In a way, my film tells about this struggle in my life against being ‘erased’. It is a way of freeing myself. I exorcise my demons permanently and sometimes my work offends people. I do not want to deliberately shock, I just wanted to do something funny. I do it with my vision of things. And with my mahu sensitivity. It should not be forgotten that the mahu, the raerae recieve many blows in every sense of the word. As a child, I was beaten by my father, because he did not want me to be a girl. When one grows up, the only way to protect oneself is with one’s mouth and spirit. This is how one survives,” concludes the big-hearted man. The author of the novel “Coconut milk” hopes to seduce the public with his small grain of madness. In the end, 100 Tikis is a film about tolerance. A film about another “we” Oceanians.
FIFO – Jenny Poehere Hunter