Window-on-short docs, a festival in the festival

The event baptized “Window-on-short docs,” organized Monday evening at the Maison de la Culture’s Grand Théâtre, focused on short documentaries. This novelty of the 2018 selection has already found its audience.

“I think I will vote for the documentary on mangroves,” says Vaea Deplat as she leaves the Maison de la Culture’s Grand Théâtre on Monday night. She has just participated in the Window-on-short docs event. “We don’t have it here, I thought of it as a hostile environment, with brackish water, but after seeing this documentary I want to go there and put my hands in it, to see what is going on there. The water is clear, the fauna and wildlife rich.”

Vaea Deplat is referring to the documentary Mangrove Stories by Ruth Ketau. A 15-minute documentary shot in Papua New Guinea about the ecosystem that provides the fishermen with crabs and fish. The communities who depend on the mangroves learn how to safeguard them, for they are susceptible to climate change.

The audience is the event’s jury

Other spectators, like Vaea Deplat question themselves for it is up to them to select the event’s best short documentary. Here and there it leads to discussions. Will the builders of large canoes prevail over the inhabitants of the region of Asaro, Papua New Guinea, who make masks out of clay? Will the wanderings of the Maori poet take precedence over the extreme sensations of the wingsuit practitioners?

Eleven documentaries for an evening

In all, eleven 3 to 17-minute documentaries were screened. “We received so many films and their quality was so good that the organization of a short documentary evening fell into place naturally,” explains Mareva Leu, the organizer. The Pre-selection Committee received 147 films. Nine people, including Moana’ura Tehei’ura, English teacher, choreographer and stage director, took it upon themselves to view them, one by one, from August to November. “Finally, Window-on-short docs is like a festival in the festival, a compendium of the FIFO. It presents a broad panorama of subjects and territory,” he tells us.

Several strong themes stood out such as the environment or the women of Oceanian societies. “We are not the same after this event. We learned so many things,” says Heiva. For example, without transition, that a drop of oxybenzone (a chemical compound used particularly in sunscreens) diluted in a volume of water equivalent to six and a half times the size of an Olympic pool may be fatal to fish larvae, that 15% of the world’s reefs are contaminated by the components of sunscreens, that climate change is threatening mangroves but also the sites producing the clay used by a Papuan tribe to make its masks, or that in New Zealand, a 58-year-old Maori man likes to tie knots with trees. These trees with knotted branches grow and “I vibrate when I cut them, as if I took a drug,” he assures us.


The documentaries of Window-on-short docs presented compelling visions of the Pacific universe. Shot in color or in black and white, focused on one character or a group of characters, they incite us to dream and think.

FIFO / Delphine Barrais