Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu: ‘Fifo is a cultural oasis in a world of uncompromising globalisation’

All officials gathered in the main marquee on Tuesday morning for the formal opening of the 17th FIFO. For Estelle Berruyer, representative of the High Commissioner, the festival is an ‘adventure worth sharing’, for Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu, the films shown here also serve as ‘whistle-blowers’.

The 17th Pacific International Documentary Film Festival officially opened its doors on Tuesday morning. Many dignitaries came to the Maison de la culture for this opening which, as is the tradition, started with the FIFO welcome song sung by all the Maison de la culture employees. Éric Barbier, director and chairman of the jury, then took the floor, reiterating his pleasure to be here in this region with which he is unfamiliar yet excited to discover through FIFO’s selected films and the discussions that he will have with the members of the jury. His most recent film premiered on Monday evening at Le Liberty cinema. A ‘remarkable start’ for the festival emphasised Miriama Bono, chairwoman of AFIFO, as ‘Petit pays’ left the audience silent, reeling from the images and emotions. Emotions that FIFO wishes to evoke among its audiences. ‘Each year is a new challenge for FIFO. We must continue to surprise the public’, explained Miriama Bono, thanking the sponsors and the Maison de la culture that allow the event to exist and endure. FIFO has even begun to spread its wings with the first FIFAC that took place in Guyana last October and an upcoming festival in Réunion Island, FIFOI, that should be held this year. Wallès Kotra said, among other things, that these initiatives may be fragile, but they are a ‘cry to say that globalisation cannot wreck and make populations and cultures disappear’.

Luc de Saint-Sernin, editorial director of France Télévisions, responsible for international development, noted this inclination of Overseas Territories to exert their influence worldwide. ‘FIFO, FIFAC and FIFOI are part of valorisation strategy for Overseas Territories. France Télévisions channels continue to work in the vicinity. We want more to be broadcast from and about Overseas Territories, in our fiction and documentaries, to cultivate your own perspective on air. France Télévisions will become a global hub on which the sun never sets.’ For Estelle Berruyer, officer for cultural affairs to the secretary-general of the High Commissioner, the State stands by the festival, promising ‘adventures’, ‘reflection’, ‘rethinking’ and ‘emotion’. ‘FIFO gives pride of place to the peoples of Oceania, their concerns and hopes…These committed stories move us and draw attention to the diversity of cultures and arts. The festival has a cultural as well as an economic influence promoting audiovisual stakeholders.’ She also highlighted the importance of film education welcoming many school groups. ‘Culture plays a major role in the development of a society.’

The Minister for Culture and the Environment, Heremoana Maamaatuiahutapu, also one of the fathers of FIFO, emphasised the importance of the festival whose films had been ‘whistle-blowers’. Right from the start, the question of gender was raised, then nuclear testing, the living conditions of Aborigines, overexploitation of forests, rising water levels, etc. ‘Thank you to the producers, directors and professionals who enable us to see new worlds, new lives and battles. FIFO is a meeting place where questions are raised before the international community even addresses them’. To quote film director Agnès Varda: ‘I don’t want to show things but to give people the desire to see’, Heremoana Maamaatuiahutapu emphasises the objectives of the festival: to give people the desire to see, understand and share. ‘This event is now the second cultural event of the year after Heiva i Tahiti, with 30,000 admissions in 2019. FIFO is a cultural oasis in a world of uncompromising globalisation, a new way to navigate our sea of islands.’

Lucie Rabréaud/ FIFO 2020