Lisa Taouma: ‘Natives must tell their own story’

Lisa Taouma is a member of the jury at this 17th FIFO. She is the only woman on this jury and a director who knows the festival well. Last year she presented Marks of Mana, the first film dedicated to exclusively female tattooing in the Pacific. From Samoa but living in New Zealand, Lisa Taouma is also responsible for Coconet TV, a web platform which brings together the stories of the islands of Oceania, an important insight to the region. Let’s find out more about this amazing woman.

You are a FIFO regular, but this is the first time that you are a member of the jury. What is your attitude to this festival?

I play a very active role in indigenous television and there is something very important above all for the younger generation: it is the idea that natives can and must tell their own story. What interests me about this festival is that the people who live here speak, express and give their point of view about their country. And not as seen by Westerners, as has been the case for decades. I will also look at the different types of documentary. There are several angles on the ways of telling and different perspectives. What is magical about this festival is that it brings together the varied viewpoints of countries in Oceania. 

As a member of the jury and a film director, what do you expect from a documentary?

I expect the story to be strong. With large productions you have all the resources, but I don’t think that it’s the most important thing. The way that it’s told, with all the equipment that may be involved, is secondary. What counts is the power and strength of the story.

You are responsible for Coconet TV, a web platform that disseminates films and programmes about countries in Oceania. Is it important to you that the natives tell their story and can express themselves?

That is the only goal of this platform. It exists to share the stories of countries in the Pacific as told by natives of the Pacific. One of the great qualities of this platform is that in contrast to television, that is broadcast in only one country, the web platform enables international broadcasting.

Is it a way of breaking free from ‘intellectual’ colonisation ?

Yes! It’s expressly an anti-colonial platform. We have created the framework and now we need people from all the countries in Oceania. The challenge is to maintain the resources, chiefly financing, in order to continue to exist. We need, in the various places that the different stories are told and where this content is created, the creators to be supported as well as people to financially support the platform by buying the content.

The difficulty is often the lack of training for locals, versus Westerners who have greater access to this…

What is very specific to these times is the changing technology. It’s always a challenge as we need resources for training, we hold workshops for example but we have limited means. The advantage today is that in schools now there are young people who learn to film and edit using new technology. Everyone can film on their telephone; everyone has software to edit and create… It’s an answer in part to this problem.

What do you advise young film directors?

If you have no resources, tell the story yourself with the means that you do have, with your telephone. The most important thing is the story, which story I want to tell, what constitutes its wealth? There are thousands of things, there is a lot that hasn’t been said about Oceania, the potential content is huge as it’s a bit of a new phenomenon in relation to the West where there are films everywhere and about everything. It is therefore a great chance, a great opportunity. You must seize it.

Do you think that Oceania is still not very well known particularly in the West and America? 

Yes! In the United States, for example, they know Hawaii as it’s one of the states of their country, but they don’t know that other islands in the region exist and where they are. It’s the same thing for France and Europe. That’s the magic of FIFO: we meet, we can therefore talk in spite of our different languages. It is very important to try to create a dialogue and films are a way of doing this.

Suliane Favennec/ FIFO 2020