In a traditional tribal society in the South Pacific, a young girl, Wawa, falls in love with her chief’s grandson, Dain. When an inter-tribal war escalates, Wawa is unknowingly betrothed as part of a peace deal. The young lovers run away, refusing her arranged fate. They must choose between their hearts and the future of the tribe, while the villagers must wrestle with preserving their traditional culture and adapting it to the increasing outside demands for individual freedom.
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★★★★½ review by CJ Probst on Letterboxd
Here is your next winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film as far as this guy is concerned. How is no one talking about this?
It is only once in a great while that I see a film as powerful and breathtakingly gorgeous as Tanna. Shot on location and featuring a cast consisting of indigenous peoples of the titular island, this film tells a very old story indeed, one that everyone who sees it will be more than familiar with. That should not deter anyone from seeing what will likely be my new favorite film of 2016. The story, though deceptively derivative, is actually a true one and feels every bit as original as it does familiar. Anyone reading this will likely have seen countless adaptations of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but I promise you that you will never have seen one that looks and feels as natural and rooted in raw humanity as does Tanna.
recently I could be quoted as naming a film as one of the best looking that I had seen all year. This completely blows all other competition out of the water. With stunning vistas of some of the most Edenic landscapes ever put on film, this imagery will positively floor you and cause your hearts to skip a beat. If Terrence Malick and Werner Herzog were to collaborate on a film’s cinematography, it would look something like this, depicting nature equally at its most majestic as well as its most fearsome. On top of this sumptuous feast for the eyes, lies an equally moving story and one of the greatest love stories ever told. Who would have thought that one would have to travel to the far side of the world to discover an authentic Romeo and Juliet, a pair whose indomitable romance would create waves of real world repercussions and reshape an entire culture forever? Tanna is the real deal people, it was the one I had been waiting for all year. Do everything you can to make sure you hunt this masterpiece down. If this is the first time that you have heard about this film, it will not be the last. Trust me on that.
★★★½ review by Michael Scott on Letterboxd
I’ll admit to being a little uncomfortable sitting, fully blanketed, in an air conditioned cinema watching the shivering, grass-skirted cast of Tanna doing the promotional dance for their film. As they answer the trickle of condescending white people questions through their exuberant translator, the ethnographic consumption of their first feature hit home.
Thankfully, none of this discomfort presents in the film itself. Extensive collaboration with the Yakel tribe, one of Tanna’s traditionally-living Kastom communities, by directors Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, has resulted in a vivid melding of cultural rigour and storytelling naturalism. The bare bones of the narrative are drawn from the island’s recent history, with first time actors drawing on their actual lives to recreate the story of a taboo love match in the 1980s that brought a new strength to the Kastom tribes, though at a tragic cost.
In cutting to the marrow of such a universal narrative trope, the creative team behind Tanna breathe a rare life into it. Marie Wawa and Mungau Dain, who take on the mantle of the impetuous lovers, share an easy chemistry, which stands up well to the buffeting of social pressure from within their tribe and the threat of physical violence from without. Their love sets up a tradition vs. progression dynamic, which the cast and crew unpack, plainly but with involving earnestness.
Selin, Wawa’s younger sister, who bounds across the island as a mischievous second lead, also makes an engaging access point, compounding the film’s weighty innocence. Her snappy charisma and the film’s narrative simplicity should give audiences a satisfying enough viewpoint from which to drink in Tanna’s many-faceted beauty. Dean’s digital cinematography also does well to showcase the island’s abundant charms, getting up close and personal with all his actors and with the island’s frighteningly active volcano. Both are used to impressive effect.
Though it may present as a fairly traditional culture fable, the accomplishment of the final product and the seamless manner in which everyone involved has been able to translate the island experience to the big screen sets Tanna apart. For a community that hadn’t seen a movie before starting down the film making path, they’ve ended up with an exceptional and culturally significant record of their own current and recent history. A rare film that explores their lives without patronising them.
Now we just have to find a way to consume it without doing so.
★★★★½ review by Michel Amaral on Letterboxd
This is definitely the best adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliette, how come nobody is talking about it?
"Tanna" is surely a strong competitor on the Best Foreign Language Film category on the Oscars, it might even win. This one tells a true story, a strong and solid story, one that is so strong that will take our hears on a lovers' journey. They seek a place where their love is accepted, a place where they can believe that what they feel goes beyond their law, and it's cliche, we know, but it's so natural that makes you forget about all of these things. It's clearly above all of those "forbidden love" type of films, it's new, it feels like a fresh story, and makes us submerge in the story. And it's even better if you keep in mind that actors of their own ethnicity participated in the whole cast and brought us this masterpiece.
The cinematography in this is so beautiful, it's big, it's magnificent, it's raw, and yet so entertaining. I swear that some of the shots are just as breathtaking as the ones you can see in Hollywood. The volcano shots, they came in to me like poetry, I felt like it was speaking to me, telling them what to do, connecting to them, and this is beautiful, to find this connection and to capture this on screen, making them feel comprehended and respected.
If you never heard of "Tanna" before the Oscar, you pretty sure will hear a lot about it after it, even if it doesn't win, it deserves all awards. And I hope that everyone can share a piece of the feeling I had while watching this.
★★★½ review by Kirenia on Letterboxd
Sin duda me gustó, sobre todo el hecho de que todo el cast haya sido una tribu real. La forma y dirección de Tanna se me hizo muy bonita. Una historia ya vista, sí, pero real, y por eso pienso que no le quita nivel.
Con respecto a los Oscars, hasta ahora lo que ofrece Australia me ha gustado un poco más que la de Suecia (En Man Som Heter Ove), pero no tanto como la danesa, Under sadet ni la alemana, Toni Erdmann.
"Wisdom comes through suffering, killing brings only sorrow."
★★★★★ review by Lady Maricota on Letterboxd
What a stunning piece of art and life. People should be talking more about "Tanna", they should.
Those volcano shots will hunt my sould forever.
Love is Love is Love is Love
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