Well – I (Lyn) have been in Tahiti a week and it seems like I arrived yesterday
I’m currently sitting in my hotel room with the sliding door to the balcony open, listening to the traffic on the motorway, the barking of dogs, the clucking of chickens and the tweeting of tropical birds in the trees below. Papeete is very much a product of its parts – French, Polynesian, some other cultures, in ways that I can’t pretend to understand, but the whole is somehow quite familiar. This might be in part because I’ve been here before (albeit nearly 20 years ago) but it’s also because Polynesia has its own flavour, elements in common with New Zealand and with Takuu. The chickens would be a big part of island life, but also the language, the tattoo traditions (to my eye the new Tahitian styles are most beautiful of any), the sea at the door. The sashimi is plentiful and mostly pretty good…not a New Zealand tradition per se but thanks to Ken’s Yakitori on K-Road, extremely reminiscence of home nevertheless.
The festival provides unparalleled hospitality to guests and filmmakers – Gallic grace meets Polynesian honour perhaps. We were initially taken to Moorea (a neighbouring island) for the day, went swimming with sharks and rays (not my favourite) and ate incredible poisson cru (tuna sashimi salad with lime juice marinade and coconut cream) on a small private island. The whole experience formed an initial time for filmmakers and press to bond and get to know each other in a really relaxed natural way and was a fantastic start to the week.
Every night we’ve been here, there have been cocktails – at the hotel, the president’s “office”, the High commissioners home and culminating last night in a sit-down dinner at the Hotel de Ville – the town hall. Of course I damaged my fancy shoes (borrowed from my sister) the second night and have been reduced to wearing sandals ever since, but Tahiti is a pretty relaxed kind of place so its ok. I’m just sad not to have them for the big prize-giving ceremony tonight. The attention the film has received has been such that I’m hopeful we might pick something up.
Generally speaking it’s been a big six days – TOWAI’s screening run is over now but the feedback from people on the selection panel and from the press has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve received interest from a European distributor as well as generous comments from other filmmakers and the audience reactions have been enthusiastic. I’ve been able to do more publicity than I anticipated and some of what has been done is getting picked up by other media outlets – which is just wonderful.
With representatives from ITVS, large productions companies in Australia and independent programmers, producers and directors from all over the Pacific region, FIFO is actually not a bad place to network, which is a bonus. The festival has just started a pitching forum this year and this looks set to help Pacific filmmakers develop their contacts and skills as well as offering anyone from further afield a chance to get some attention for their projects.
On balance FIFO has also run a very successful bilingual event with dialogue between French and English parts of the Pacific made possible by bilingual subtitling on all competition films, selective translation at events, the presence of bilingual press and FIFO organisers and the efforts of a surprisingly large number of New Zealand, American and Australian filmmakers with “un peu de franglais” stringing some sentences together when required. Given the physical distance and variation within the Pacific region, a coming together of many of the different parts in one place for a cultural event like this is rare and it’s great to experience a flow of information between the francophone and anglophone elements.
I leave tomorrow and I can hardly believe that the time has slipped away so fast. I haven’t seen nearly enough of the country and of course I want to come back – Tahiti is a perfect place to slip into island time and to think about all the best ways to about set the world to rights. It hasn’t been a holiday, but certainly a welcome change of pace.
For a link to an interview I did yesterday on ABC’s Pacific Beat and ran out of time to blog about go here.