Tanna | A South Seas island Romeo and Juliet

Tanna Mungau Dain Marie Wawa
(Image credit: PHILIPPE PENEL)

Tanna Mungau Dain Marie Wawa

Fugitive lovers.

On a remote South Pacific island, a headstrong young woman falls in love with the village chief’s grandson. But she has been promised in marriage to a warlike rival tribe in a bid to bring about peace. Faced with separation, the lovers run away together into the forest.

Based on real events that took place in 1987, this remarkable ethnographic film was shot by Australian documentary makers Bentley Dean and Martin Butler on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. The cast had never seen a movie camera before, let alone acted; and their costumes amount to grass skirts and penis sheaths (their habitual wear). Yet their candid performances put many trained thespians to shame.

And if this weren’t enough to pique your interest, Tanna also looks stunning, with the primal images of lush green rainforest and a fiery volcano adding to the story’s mythic power. That said, the drama does require a little patience. Enter into its beguiling spirit, though, and you will see why the film picked up a best foreign language Oscar nomination this year.

Certificate 12 A. Runtime 100 mins. Directors Bentley Dean, Martin Butler

Tanna debuts on Sky Cinema Premiere on Wednesday 13 September. Available on DVD from Yume Pictures.


Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.