Vanuatu’s Romeo and Juliet epic Tanna nominated for Oscars

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By Thompson Marango in Port Vila

Tanna, the movie shot on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, has been picked by Screen Australia as its official entry for best foreign language film at the 2017 Oscars.

The plot follows a young girl, Wawa, who falls in love with the chief’s grandson but is unknowingly betrothed to another as part of a peace deal hatched between two warring tribes.

The chief of Yakel village plays Chief Charlie and the Yakel medicine man plays the Shaman.

Mungau, who plays the chief’s grandson Dain, was chosen by consensus because he was considered the “most handsome” man of the village.

Sydney Morning Herald entertainment writer Linda Morris reported that since its limited Australian release, Tanna has collected a series of international awards.

The Romeo and Juliet tale is directed by Australian documentary filmmakers Bentley Dean and Martin Butler.

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The trailer says: “The young lovers run away, but are pursued by enemy warriors intent on killing them.

“They must choose between their hearts and the future of the tribe, while the villagers must wrestle with preserving their traditional culture and adapting it to the increasing outside demands for individual freedom.”

True story
Tanna is based on a true story in 1984 that led to custom changes on arranged marriage and the film is performed by the people of Yakel.

It was voted best film and best cinematographer at the Venice International Film Festival, and the best direction and best feature film at the Australian Directors Guild Awards.

It was also featured in the New Zealand International Film Festival last month.

The Venice jury said: “The eye behind Tanna captures the subtleties and complexities of a culture under threat and provides the audience with a clear vision of that world.”

The chief executive of Screen Australia Graeme Mason said: “Tanna does what all great films aspire to do: transport you out of your seat and keep you completely riveted as you dive into another world.

“It’s a simple and universal story told with such impressive nuance and looks extraordinary on screen. It’s a great privilege to submit Tanna to the Academy on behalf of Australia, the filmmakers and the people of Yakel.”

The movie will be released in New York City and Los Angeles on September 16 and 23 respectively.

Thompson Marango is a Vanuatu Daily Post reporter.

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