There Once was an Island: Te henua e nnoho is a beautifully shot documentary about the Takū people in Papua New Guinea. The 400 inhabitants live on an atoll, consisting of 14 islands located 250km from the mainland. Due to climate changes, the sea level has risen and the shorelines along the Takū Islands are receding, bringing salt water to gardens and pushing homes away from the beach. Since service ships only arrive four times a year, the atoll remains isolated from the rest of Papua New Guinea. Communication is difficult and the people are often neglected by the government. However, also due to their remoteness, the community is one of few that still uphold traditional ways of life, such as an egalitarian subsistence practice. Resources, such as fish and giant taros, are shared amongst the people in the clan. Traditional songs and dances, some performed before the arrival of missionaries, are passed on from generation to generation. The islanders maintain a calm and peaceful lifestyle, sleeping in thatched houses and gathering in the streets for meetings and celebrations.
Filmmakers Briar March and Lyn Collie began documenting the Takū culture in 2006. The film focuses on the impact on three particular individuals: Satty, a 30-year old fisherman, farmer and father of 5 kids; 45 year old Endar, who returned to the Takū Islands to care for her dying father; and Telō, a father who is keen on teaching his 6 children the Takū culture. In 2008, March and Collie returned to the atoll with scientists Scott Smithers and John Hunter to assess the damage. During this time, the community was hit by a strange high wave, flooding the islanders’ homes and forcing them to rethink their circumstance. The government has offered them the choice of moving to the mainland. But will the Takū leave behind their atoll and with that their traditions, for their own personal safety?
For more information on the crew and how you can help, visit http://www.thereoncewasanisland.com/
There Once was an Island: Te henua e nnoho
New Zealand/USA, 2011
Dir: Briar March