Pacific Media Watch’s Daniel Drageset interviews British filmmaker Tajinder Singh Hayer about the Film Raro festival in the Cook Islands. Still photos by Del Abcede/PMC
Report – By Daniel Drageset of Pacific Media Watch
After participating in the Raro Challenge on Rarotonga, British filmmaker Tajinder Singh Hayer flew into Auckland full of praise for the inaugural Cook Islands film festival Film Raro.
When arriving on Rarotonga in mid-May, Singh Hayer and his crew had only just over a week to shoot a short film for the festival, organised by Drum Productions of New Zealand.
Five other film crews from around the world, including New Zealand, competed in the same intense competition as the English filmmakers.
To succeed, Singh Hayer and his team were dependent on local support – but that was never a problem.
Singh Hayer explained:
“The people were wonderful. The support that we had from people who had taken time off work – you know, a real level of commitment, performers and production crew, meant that while it was tricky shooting at Oneroa in the lagoon at Muri beach, it meant that we were kind of properly supported,”Singh Hayer told Pacific Media Watch after speaking at a Pacific Media Centre seminar at AUT University on Thursday.
The AUT seminar, co-hosted by the British Council in Auckland, also included the screening of his film Islands.
The film is about a young woman, who is ill-treated in the relationship she is currently in, and attracted to another man on a different island.
Singh Hayer’s film is remarkable by not including one single spoken word during the entire 16 minutes of its duration.
The director explains that this was due to a New Zealand filmmaker, Virginia Heath, who was his tutor at a media production school in Sheffield, England. She challenged Singh Hayer to write a film script without dialogue.
This idea had laid dormant in the 33-year-old’s mind for several years until the Raro Challenge came up.
“[T]he initial idea was a test for myself because coming from a theatrical and radio background I’ve been quite dependent on dialogue, and so to see the visual possibilities of a film, and you know, whether I could do it as a writer, as a director, whether I could tell a story without dialogue. I think that was the initial trigger, but it’s also this type of story, the story that formed, it felt to me it only could be told without dialogue, you know,” Singh Hayer explained.
Tajinder Singh Hayer is a second generation Sikh immigrant to England. In his previous projects he has dealt with British-Asian themes relating to his background.
In this film, Singh Hayer has departed from his previous projects in creating a film with a Pacific setting. Although the setting of the film is unmistakably Pacific, the theme in the film is universal, he explains:
“I hope that I created a story that was kind of flexible enough, to kind of allow for different interpretations, but also kind of a meaningful, creative dialogue with Cook Islands crews. On another level as well the story’s quite archetypal, you know, it’s got a kind of universal…and yeah, it’s not told in verbal language, so it’s got a kind of universal element to it as well. So it was a mix of things about the very specific and the universal.”
The filmmaker describes his film as a “fairytale” and a “love story”.
The Hawai’ian film Little Girls War Cry, which looks at domestic abuse through the eyes of a 10-year old girl, was awarded the social impact award at the festival.
Nevertheless, Islands was well received, Singh Hayer said:
“It had a really good response. I mean all of the films had a really good response. I think there’s a really positive atmosphere. A lot of people found it beautiful. They found it moving, which is great.”
The Film Raro festival aims to help establishing the Cook Islands as “the film friendliest tropical location in the world – COOKIWOOD,” according to the website of the film festival.
It seeks to promote tourism in the Pacific country, which today accounts for 75 percent of its annual income.
Source: Pacific Media Scoop 8317