‘The design motif ‘Peau Fisi hina’ represents foam tipped waves breaking on the shore. The point where the ocean of fathomless depths encounters the land  references the meeting point between spiritual and material realms’ (Ruha Fifita)

On Project Pouono two videos are featured. One features collaboration being written into a National Mental Health Policy. In my last week in Tonga in 2018 I was invited to speak at a workshop finalising the National Mental Health plan. The second is feedback from Hufanga Dr ‘Okusitino Mahina relating to the translation and use of the term tevolo. The presence and use of the camera in both events has a history, and this page seeks to present the longer history of my use of the video camera in Tonga.

The process of making the film spans twenty years. When I first took a video camera to Tonga in 1998 I had no intention of making a documentary. This section attempts to give some history to the process and feedback involved in making the documentary, in a way that does justice to the making explicit of assumptions and the learning that emerged for filming at the service of community. The finished product reflects many encounters and influences not all of which can be acknowledged in the credits of the documentary.

I end with feedback from screenings of the finished version that helped inform some of the content of this Project Pouono website.

The shoreline can also be metaphorical for what emerges out of the process of collaboration and feedback in making a film on Tonga. As the tide comes in and out, things formerly invisible become visible. The shoreline can also be seen as the place where the fathomless depths of the ocean become understandable. If the depths of the ocean metaphorically captures the idea of complexity, then somehow the shore is where the negotiated space is easiest to locate.  On the shore unexpected things may happen, may then shift the direction and focus of a film.  In the spirit of decolonising the process of filmmaking and the final film, I feel telling the story of how it came to pass, is the best first step.

Here are some of the key stages that I will expand on in the future:

  • Filming Funerals
  • The Film about Filomena
  • Video Diaries
  • Tinitini and Fundraising
  • Embarrassing translation mistakes and cultural faux pas.
  • Interventions by friends – Nigel Randell Evans. Nigel helped me see the value of making a film of what I knew best about Tonga, that led from a plan to make a film about why Siua Tutone had died of complications of diabetes to the focus on Emeline Lolohea and Dr Puloka. I had not realised at the time how much experience and film experience he had on issues of mental illness in the UK and on Oceania. Here is a post that details the remarkable life he led, and how he spent his final years in Vava’u.
  • The University Impact Agenda and REF Oriented Funding
  • New Zealand feedback  screenings
  • Feedback screenings in Tonga.

Please share below your thoughts and experiences and talanoa on our dedicated facebook group.