Vai

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New Zealand | 2019 | 90 minutes | Nicole Whippy, ‘Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Matasila Freshwater, Amberley Jo Aumua, Miria George, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Dianna Fuemana, Becs Arahanga

June 17, 2019

Best of SIFF 2019

Best Film, Third Runner-Up: Golden Space Needle Audience Award

A sequel of sorts to SIFF 2018’s breathtaking Waru, featuring eight vignettes directed by nine female South Pacific filmmakers about eight Indigenous women all connected by their name and their empowering island stories.

Vai is a high-concept portmanteau film comprising eight vignettes, directed by nine Indigenous female directors from the Pacific Islands. Each vignette is spearheaded by a different Indigenous actress, unifying the film's narrative across Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Kuki Airani (Cook Islands), Samoa, Niue, and Aotearoa (New Zealand). The actresses, ranging from ages 7 to 80, represent different stages in a woman's life and are each named a variation of the word "vai"—"water" in Maori. Water, traditionally associated with femininity, is emblematic of empathy, intuition, and a fluid sense of identity. Water soothes the earth while remaining capable of profound destruction. This fluidity lends itself to Vai's storytelling, which isn't linear, but instead comes across as a lullaby of sorts. Although the character of Vai is present across multiple generations on eight different islands and in eight different bodies, she is, in spirit, the same person, uniting otherwise isolated communities. Men exist in this universe, but they are supplementary to the women's experiences in these matrilineal societies; they act as antagonists but are ultimately unable to wield any real power over the women's strong central bond.

Director Biography
Nicole Whippy is a New Zealand actress who has been in a number of television series over the years in New Zealand, but is best known for her role as Kasey Mason in the hit comedy Outrageous Fortune.

'Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki has a passion for women's and children's rights and development issues, and has been an advocate for the ratification of CEDAW for the past 11 years.

Matasila Freshwater is a Wellington director with a background in animation, anthropology and design. Her award-winning short Shmeat, the tale of a mad scientist who devises a new food source, was chosen for the 'New Zealand's Best' section of the 2016 NZ International Film Festival.

Amberley Jo Aumua is of Samoan and Maori descent from Manurewa, New Zealand. She is a writer and director who holds a Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts. Her first short film WAITING (2017) won the Jury Prize for Best Film at the New Zealand International Film Festival (2017), Best Student Film at the Show Me Shorts International Film Festival (2017), and was in competition at the Toronto International Film Festival (2017).

Mīria George is a poet and writer for theater, radio, and television, and was the first Cook Islands artist to receive the Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer's Residency at the University of Hawaii. Mīria is of Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Kuki Airani (Rarotonga & Atiu) heritage and is the co-director of Tawata Productions. Having completed a Masters of Arts at The University of Auckland, former Miss New Zealand Marina Alofagia McCartney earned acclaim for her film Milk & Honey, which gave a Pasifika perspective on the infamous dawn raids of the 1970s. The film was selected for the 2012 NZ International Film Festival.

Dianna Fuemana is a New Zealander-Niuean playwright, screenplay writer, stage actress and director who is the partner of Jay Ryan, a television, film, and stage actor from New Zealand. She stormed into the male-dominated New Zealand Pacific theatre sphere with her one-woman show "Mapaki" in 1999.

Becs Arahanga is a writer, director, and producer known for Laundry, a comedy about how your love life and sex life is affected after you have kids. Having five kids herself, and now mokopuna (grandchildren), she had plenty of inspiration and opportunity to research and then write and direct this film.

  • Director: Nicole Whippy, ‘Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Matasila Freshwater, Amberley Jo Aumua, Miria George, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Dianna Fuemana, Becs Arahanga
  • Principal Cast: Mereani Tuimatanisiga, ‘Ar-Ramadi Longopoa, Betsy Luitolo, Agnes Pele, Evotia-Rose Araiti, Fiona Collins, Maliaga Erick, Hinetu Dell
  • Country: New Zealand
  • Year: 2019
  • Running Time: 90 minutes
  • Producer: Kerry Warkia, Kiel McNaughton
  • Screenplay: Sharon Whippy, Nicole Whippy, ‘Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Matasila Freshwater, Amberley Jo Aumua, Mīria George, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Dianna Fuemana, Becs Arahanga
  • Cinematographers: Drew Sturge
  • Editors: Dione Chard
  • Music: Lauren King
  • Language: Fijian, Tongan, Roviana, Samoan, Cook Islands Maor
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • Format: DCP
  • US Distributor: MPI Media Group
  • International Sales: MPI Media Group