11 Jun 2018

With 'Vai' a Tongan filmmaker's dream comes true

From , 5:00 am on 11 June 2018

Telling the life story of a Pacific woman on film is a dream come true for Tongan filmmaker 'Ofa-ki-Levuka Guttenbeil Likiliki.

The former women's rights campaigner is one of eight women selected to write and direct a segment of Vai – a new film funded by the NZ Film Commission.

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Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

Vai will give voice to the largely under-represented perspectives of Pacific women, its producers Kerry Warkia (who is of Papua New Guinean ancestry) and Kiel McNaughton say. 

It will be similar in style to the acclaimed 2017 NZ film Waru, which the pair also produced.

Vai's eight filmmakers hail from or have ancestral connections with the Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, New Zealand, Samoa and Solomon Islands.

When they first met at a five-day writers retreat they all got along immediately, ' Guttenbeil-Likiliki tells Dominic Godfrey.

"We could feel that Pacificness inside of all of us."

Guttenbeil-Likiliki says she turned up to the retreat ready to listen and excited to collaborate.

"The one skill I've learnt from beng a womens rights activits is to listen and be open to other ideas and diverse voices in the room.

"This has been a dream since the age of 18. I've carried this dream for many years and although my journey has taken me into different experiences i've always had my heart on this dream."

Each of the Vai filmmakers know they have "a big call to answer to", Guttenbeil-Likiliki says.

"We need to tell the stories from the Pacific and we need to tell them through our eyes."

The script for Vai is being finalised now. The film will be shot in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, New Zealand, Samoa and Solomon Islands and Tonga. It is due for release in 2019.