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Tanna - By jeffrey-edalatpour - September 21, 2016 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Tanna

On the South Pacific island of Tanna, a village girl named Wawa is in love with the chief’s grandson, Dain. Dain loves her, too, but she’s been promised as a bride to someone from a neighboring tribe, and one that had murdered Dain’s parents. Arranged marriages, rather than ones for love, are part of the tribe’s custom. Like Romeo and Juliet, Wawa and Dain defy their elders and then escape for a temporary seaside idyll. Co-directors Martin Butler and Bentley Dean based the story on something they’d heard while living amongst the Yakel tribe on the island. They focussed on this narrative because it represented a centuries-old culture adapting, in its small way, with the new world. The Yakel, like the Amish, are aware of modernity and its conveniences but choose to live by their own traditions. The filmmakers show the tribe navigating the lush jungle green, splashing in sunlit pools and singing and dancing together. The camera lingers on Wawa and Dain as they gaze at each other on the dangerous and symbolic lip of a fiery volcano. Tanna depicts a culture struggling to adapt to the needs of the young lovers. Known primarily as documentarians, Butler and Dean capture an intimacy with the tribe that could have only come from a great deal of trust and collaboration.