There Once Was an Island: Te Henua e Nnoho
Briar March, New Zealand / USA, 2010, color, HDcam, 80'
Nukutoa is a tiny island with a couple hundred inhabitants, located in the Pacific Ocean about 250 kilometers northeast of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. The island is only one meter above sea level. There is no electricity, there are no stores, nor is there a regular ferry connection with the outside world. People subsist on what they catch from the sea and grow in their own gardens. Thanks to the isolated location, a unique, centuries-old culture has remained largely intact, but this could all come to an end in the foreseeable future - the island might end up getting flooded as a result of climate change. The filmmakers follow three islanders and their families as the situation gets increasingly precarious. They capture how the idyllic white beaches are gradually getting submerged, how the plants in people's gardens are dying because of salt water, and how floods destroy houses. We see the frustration and the despair of the people, who grow more and more dependent on a distant government that seems incapable of taking adequate measures to help them. The key question is whether they should move or instead choose to stay and continue the fight for their island and the future of their culture.