Romeo and Juliet meets Ten Canoes. It’s not quite as good as Ten Canoes, but it is nevertheless a beguiling depiction of indigenous Melanesian life. The Australian team who made this film spent many years living with the community, and the film benefits very much from this close and sympathetic observation. The elders of the tribe struggle to preserve their old ways, fully aware that contact with the modern world has a powerful appeal to the younger generation. They know they have to adapt – a point poignantly made when one old sage tries to persuade a young woman to marry a man she doesn’t love by explaining that the marriage of the Queen and Prince Phillip was an arranged one. It doesn’t work, and as with Romeo and Juliet it’s the young who end up paying a heavy price for ancient tribal enmities they had nothing to do with, and which arise from irrational beliefs (in this case that one tribe used sorcery to destroy another’s crops) that are the downside of many traditional cultures.
This review was first published on Facebook in November 2015