By Eliorah Malifa
It's been a couple of weeks since Kalo and I attended the Festival Internationale du Film documentaire Oceanien (FIFO) Tahiti for the first time. With the week in hindsight, I was keen to reflect on our experiences with a film festival that is quite different to ours.
My first impressions of Tahiti itself were that it was super French; this being a very superficial observation (Tahiti is of course in ‘French Polynesia’). Tahiti uses the Pacific Franc as currency, and food is pretty expensive unless you live on baguettes and poisson cru (raw fish) which is delicious. Cheese and wine is also pretty amazing.
Linguistically, I struggled. My limited French was not doing so well with the taxi drivers in Papeete, no matter how much I moved my hands people were obviously not going to understand; and my attempts to speak Samoan to locals when I couldn't converse in English was never going to be a huge success (later I was told I would have done better if I spoke te reo Maori). But people’s hospitality and willingness to help is a beautiful feature of Tahiti and Moorea, where we visited later.
We arrived just ahead of the festival opening and met with friends of PFF in Lisa Taouma (Coconet TV, Tikilounge Productions) who was the lone woman sitting on the FIFO jury this year and Vea Mafile’o who’s films ‘For My Father’s Kingdom’ and ‘Liliu’ were both showing in the FIFO program. Later we also caught up with Hepi Mita (‘Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen’), Tearepa Kahi (‘Herbs’, ‘Poi E’), Sergio Rapu (‘Eating Up Easter’) and Lissette Flanary (‘Tokyo Hula’), all of whom have had films on the film festival circuit in 2019/2020. Both Hepi and Vea’s films had success winning jury prizes on closing night.
Some of the other films we were lucky enough to view in the program, were ‘The Australian Dream’ (Daniel Gordon) which won the People’s Choice and a Jury prize; and ‘Ophir’ (Alexandre Berman, Olivier Pollet) which won the FIFO Grand Jury Prize.
Outside of the festival screenings and competition, the festival hub buzzed with activity. Broadcasting stations, a main tent that provided space for roundtable discussions and a pitching event; smaller spaces within the cultural centre where broadcasting and filmmaking workshops were held and spaces where school aged children could attend screenings and workshops.
As a person who runs their own festival, I was impressed and inspired with these elements of FIFO. I'm looking forward to seeing the ways in which PFF’s current format can employ some of these elements.
Meeting and speaking with local filmmakers was one of the highlights of the festival for me. Being able to connect with filmmakers in Tahiti and see the work that they were making and how we might be able to show these films as part of our PFF Island Hop Fest in 2020, is exciting!
I can't wait to revisit French Polynesia!