Tribal, a short film, which focuses on the reluctance to accept a foreigner as a paramour for a local female/male relative has been released on video-sharing platform, YouTube.
The nine minute long movie displays Aitutaki’s pristine environment and takes audience back to a life that has been lost.
Released under the umbrella of the Auckland–based band, The Jam Unit, through New Zealand’s Police Sergeant Craig Cartwright, the film features local actors in lead roles.
Reg Potini plays the ta’unga, Ioane and Gordon Tom (warriors) and Betuana Tuta'i Jessie (the Cook Islands girl) while David Paulo, Kalan Turia, Ben Jessie, and Ngametua Paeranga feature in supporting roles.
Some of the Aitutaki youth from the village of Vaipae participated in shooting of the fire dance scene.
Director and producer of the film, Sgt Cartwright plays the intruder (foreigner) in the film.
Cartwright says that Tribal was imagination of what might have happened if a foreigner/papa’a had been shipwrecked on a Polynesian island before the advent of Christianity. In this case, on an undiscovered island.
“But we’ve based our story on the culture and language of Aitutaki,” says Sgt Cartwright.
He says it all started when they were in Aitutaki to film some videos for Cook Islands Maori Language Week. When they finished that assignment, they decided to film Tribal.
“The story is entirely imaginary, but there’s also a historical precedent for there to be misunderstandings, and for tragedies to take place on both sides.
“We wanted to depict that. We also know that while Europeans did bring some good things, but they also helped destroy parts of the culture that are now lost forever, and that this is something that many of us now regret.”
Sgt Cartwright says while watching the film, some of the viewers would be cheering for the locals to finish the invader off. But he says the film also shows the intruder falls in love with a local.
“So, it’s also kind of acknowledging everyone’s, papa’a ancestors, who are mostly male, and showing how these guys loved not just the women they met, but also the life they found here in these beautiful islands.”
Sgt Cartwright also says the name of film (Tribal) was just a working title that stuck, and seemed to suit the story and what they were trying to depict.
Having played the role of the foreigner castaway in the film, Sgt Cartwright says that he always had that romantic dream of life in the islands, and being brought up in Tokoroa is perhaps why he always felt a strange affinity with Polynesians and the Pacific Islands, Aitutaki in particular.
“I've also studied eastern Polynesian culture in my own amateur way, and read a lot about early contact, so making this film was something that was done with a lot of love and passion,” he says.
“It was also something that we wanted to make sure that any Cook Islander who watched it would feel proud of their culture, their islands, their country, their history, and their language. To us that was the most important thing.”
The film crew would like to acknowledged The Jam Unit, Blondie’s Photography, Ministry of Cultural Development, Cook Islands Tourism, Air Rarotonga, Te Aroa Nui Aitutaki, The Boatshed Grill & Bar and videographer Johann Ward.
There are two versions of the film – the nine minute version tells the whole story, and the link to that is here: https://youtu.be/Ep64ME94xfc. Here’s the link to the first Cook Island Maori video Sgt Cartwright and the crew shot in Aitutaki. https://youtu.be/gikg3gF11Ok