This is translated text of There Once Was An Island producer Lyn Collie’s interview at FIFO.
Lyn Collie produced Te Henua E Hono: There Once was year Island, the prize winner of the Grand Prix of the jury of the FIFO 2010. Interview stolen between two flutes of champagne.
It was once Takuu, a small island of Papua New Guinea, lost in the Pacific. How did you discover it?
Briar March, the director of film, read an article by Richard Moyle, an anthropologist at the University of Auckland, which has worked on Takuu for many years. In this article, he described the situation on the island and spoke about how the first devastating effects of climate change would force the inhabitants to relocate. I contacted him and because he has very close connections with the island, and could obtain the authorizations to visit.
Was it because of the environmental aspect that you decided to make film?
Actually, no. Briar wanted to do it and I was too stupid to say no (laughter). Above everything I it a good story. At the beginning, the idea that the island was absorbing itself was fascinating. It proved that it was not absorbing itself but suffering strong floods, water flowing into houses. Storms are increasingly intense and there is no support, no help for these people. They do not have anyone to speak for them. I felt the responsibility for speaking about their cause.
So it was advocacy?
Thus not of militancy? To tell the truth at the time we began filming, it was still unclear if climate change was a reality. The understanding that people had of this problem was very different from today. So we were a little ahead of the field in this kind of journalism. Now, it seems that has changed: it has become more than a simple matter of the environment, and has become societies’ problems and I am very happy that we finished the film at the time when people started to think seriously about the subject. I hope that it will find some resonance in the way in which they think of it.
The inhabitants of Takuu hesitate today to leave their island because of this new reality, afraid of giving up their lifestyle, their culture. What alternative is available to them?
The government in Bougainville, the principal island, considers their removal the long-term solution. They have the choice to remain. The majority of them do not want to move, but they are divided. When we were on the spot, there was a large flood. so, they are a little under pressure to think about the issue. Stay or go? It is the fear of the unknown.
How did shoot happen?
We shot there twice. The first time for two months, with only the director and a technical adviser there, then for another month, for which I travelled with them. Using a radio, Richard Moyle had been able to advise the inhabitants of our arrival. I believe that they were happy that we were interested in their problems.
Have they seen the film?
Not yet, I tried to get it to them before coming to the FIFO but the boat which serves the island is not very reliable and I haven’t been able to get there yet. But obviously it is very important that they see it. We plan to go back there to April, if it is possible. Richard Moyle also plans to go.
The project took four years to complete …
That was very difficult because there was no money for the film. It took us four years to put together the funds to finance it. Initially we had to wait a year to start and then another two years after shooting on the island. Eventually we got a lot of support from business, but it took a long time to plan.
Aujourd’hui, pour ton premier film en tant que productrice, tu viens de d?crocher ce grand prix du jury. Un premier pas important …
Je suis ravie que le film soit reconnu apr?s quatre ann?es de travail et je suis aussi vraiment tr?s heureuse que la premi?re projection mondiale du film commence sur un si bon pied.
Today you received the Grand Prix for your first film as producer. Is that an important first step?
I’m delighted that the film is recognized after four years of work and very happy that the first screening got it off to such a good start.
Have you got other projects on the go?
I currently have two documentary projects in development but I’m not yet able to speak about them yet.
What are you hoping for while you advance these other productions?
I hope that winning the [Grand Prix] tonight will enable us to show the film to a lot more people and to speak about this problem.
For those who can read French, the original article is here.