Pacific Islands’ Culture in Movies

There are a few movies featuring Pacific Islands culture that have recently made headlines in the news that I would like to share. Hopefully, these films will be widely accessible in the near future.

First, at the 35th Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) that took place from November 12-22, 2015 showed films from remote islands both the North and South Pacific. From Micronesia’s Marshall Islands came the film, “Jilel: The Calling of the Shell.” This is the telling of a Marshallese tradition where a family treasure (in this case a trumpet shell, Jilel) with supernatural powers, is passed down from a dying grandmother to her granddaughter. As this magic shell is passed from hand to hand in the community its powers becomes more and more dramatic. Even reaching all the way to the White House in Washington, DC. Jilel combines serious issues with humor and local music. The Marshallese people and their culture all integrate while dealing with the disastrous effect of of climate change on their Islands. The film is inspired by the poetry of Kathy Jenil-Kijiner.

The second film at the festival that deals with Pacific Island culture comes from the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, and is titled, “Waiting for John.” The film explores and updates one of the few remaining “Cargo Cults” left over from World War II in the Pacific, and was most likely based on a real African-American soldier, “John Frum,” who shared some cargo with the locals. Thus, the film explores the lives and moves of the people who still believe in the return of “John.”

The Pacific Daily News reports that a documentary film from Guam that chronicles the history of the Chamorro people is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. It is titled, “I Am Chamorro.” The documentary is unique in that it is a summary, a historical review of the entire Chamorro people, and showcases the people and their culture over the past 4,000 years. The film will be given to all private and public schools in Guam as a resource for the classroom.

slit drums

Slit drums, Vanuatu

These films look very intriguing, indeed. Let’s keep an eye out for them. Until they become more available, keep track of our list of Pacific Islands films on our Website. Click here to see the list of films that we have posted. We are always looking for more to post!



About islandculturearchivalsupport

Island Culture Archival Support (ICAS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of records pertaining to the cultural identity of island peoples in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia whose national and public archives, libraries, cultural centers, and business organizations are underprivileged, underfunded, and understaffed. The specific purpose for which this nonprofit corporation was formed is to support the needs of these South Pacific cultural heritage institutions by helping to preserve and make accessible records created for business, accountability or cultural purposes. The organization will endeavor to add value by providing resources or volunteers to advise, train, and work among island residents to support their efforts in building their future and preserving their collective memory through the use of modern archival techniques.
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