Thursday, February 16, 2017

Movie with Abe: Tanna

Directed by Martin Butler and Bentley Dean
Released September 16, 2016

The development of new technologies has helped to create potential and new opportunities for people to achieve great things and for societies to make progress on both social and institutional levels. Those rare places where advanced technology has not permeated often showcase simpler resolutions to problems since there are not additional complicating factors, but they can also be held back by traditions that might seem outdated and archaic. Arranged marriages are an example of this, and when the union of two people is vital to the survival and peaceful reconciliation of two nations, it’s an even more harrowing issue.

On the Vanuatuan island of Tanna, the Yakel tribe lives rather peacefully by following a certain code, not venturing outside boundaries that would infringe upon a neighboring tribe’s territory and thus spark violent conflict. Two young and optimistic grandchildren of tribal leaders, Selin (Marceline Rofit) and Dain (Mungau Dain), fall in love even though they know that it is not the custom of their society for people to choose their own partners. After an incident occurs, an agreement for a ceasefire between the tribes is reached, but only if these two idealistic young lovers are married off as part of a peace offering, a miserable ending to a love story that they cannot bear to see happen.

“Tanna” is a film without sophisticated production values, visual effects, or other enhancements that might turn it into an epic blockbuster. A story that has been compared to “Romeo and Juliet” is told in a completely straightforward manner, portraying these two people and the lives they lead as perfectly standard and far from extravagant, with people doing what they must do to survive and avoiding much conflict as a result, so long as they observe the established rules and traditions. Selin and Dain do not wish to conform, if only for the reason that they want to be together.

“Tanna” comes from Australian directors Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, who have collaborated previously on two well-received documentaries. The level of intimacy and engagement with these Vanuatuan non-actors is incredible, and Rofit and Dain are just the two who most stand out from a truly authentic and effective cast culled and educated by Butler and Dean to act out a story that is meaningful to them. It starts out slow, but its imagery and themes match its gradually more intriguing plot that carries it well as a deserving nominee for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.


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