Fijian film ‘Vakaraitaka’ to premiere at Maoriland Film Festival

By Prerna Priyanka

Fijian storyteller and climate activist, Fenton Lutunatabua, is gearing up for the premiere of his debut film ‘Vakaraitaka’ at the Maoriland Film Festival in March.

The festival, now in its 11th year, is New Zealand’s premier international Indigenous Film Festival, and provides a platform for diverse voices and perspectives.

‘Vakaraitaka’ is a four-part cinematic poem that delves into the intricacies of generational ties, weaving a narrative that addresses the struggles of colonisation, climate change, and profound loss.

Fenton Lutunatabua and collaborators behind the scenes of ‘Vakaraitaka’

Lutunatabua, who has dedicated over 20 years to climate justice work, shares the inspiration behind the film, emphasising its personal and cultural significance:

“My wife and I wanted to leave behind a story that captures this moment in time, a legacy for our children,” he said.

“Film became the platform to articulate my experiences as a climate activist, condensing them into a short, powerful narrative.”

“Vakaraitaka” is not merely a cinematic piece but a heartfelt reflection of Lutunatabua’s personal and cultural journey.

The title itself, derived from Fijian vernacular.

“Vakaraitaka for me is a word I had been using in biblical ways… it means to reveal something, to show something, and there’s an element of transparency to it,” he said.

The collaborative effort behind “Vakaraitaka” underscores its multidisciplinary approach.

Lutunatabua collaborated with the Wehi Fiji dance group and fashion designer Kuiviti Pacific,  to bring his vision to life.

“We spent months in lockdown dreaming up this project. With poetry, choreography, and styling, we created a cohesive and intentional piece that tells the story of climate justice.”

Lutunatabua hopes to convey a broader message about the collective story of Pacific Islanders and their deep connection to cultural identity, land, and resilience.

“This film is another way to tell the story of climate change that goes beyond science and data, connecting our cultural identity to the fight for our environment. There’s more to us than that victim narrative.”

The film, born out of the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlights the resilience and creativity of the team.

Lutunatabua says he faced obstacles in virtual collaborations and the unfamiliar territory of filmmaking.

“It was preparing in isolation during COVID and trying to figure out the steps on how to do it. How do you get this film out there? It was also waiting and hoping for the best.”

He expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to showcase a Fijian story on an international platform, stating, “It’s incredible to get a Fijian story into Maoriland, the largest indigenous film festival on this side of the planet.”

The last Fijian film to show at Maoriland was ‘Soli Bula’.

Through the poetry, art, and dance of ‘Vakaraitaka’, Lutunatabua hopes to inspire viewers to join the fight for environmental justice and cultural preservation.

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