There Once Was an Island: Te Henua e Nnoho

“If you lose something small in the world, you lose a lot.”
Director: Briar March
Year: 2010
Country: New Zealand
Running time: 80 mins
Photography: Briar March
Producers: Lyn Collie, Briar March
Co-producers: Kelly Anderson, Mark Foster
Executive producer: Annie Goldson
Editors: Prisca Bouchet, Briar March
Sound: Jeffrey Holdaway
Music: Tom Fox, Marshall Smith, Mark Smythe
In English, Takuu and Tok Pisin, with English subtitles

With: Faith Endar Adu, Teloo Fakatutufenua, Satty Puaria, John Hunter, Scott Smithers

On Takuu, a tiny low-lying atoll in the south-west Pacific, the impact of climate change can be seen with every rising tide. The sea washes ever further inshore. Salt water invades fresh and devastates the vegetation. Briar March’s film delivers empathetic portraits of three islanders as they respond to the crisis. Some on Takuu see the hand of God in the relentless erosion of their environment, while others pay attention to the analysis and concerned advice of visiting scientists. Meanwhile, the Papua New Guinea government proposes to move the population with its distinct language and Polynesian island culture to the sugar fields of Bougainville. The intimacy of March’s encounters makes this confrontation with a global crisis a vividly personal one. If there’s truth in the claim that people will only begin working to counteract climate change when it affects them personally, then this quiet evocation of a tiny, vital civilisation under siege from the sea that once nurtured it immediately brings that moment closer for anyone who sees it. — BG

“Beautifully filmed, March frames and constructs her shots with the eye of an artist.” — Jacob Powell, The Lumiere Reader

“Go see it.” — Graeme Tuckett, The Dominion Post

>Click here to watch the trailer for There Once Was an Island on