“We sweat and cry salt water, so we know that the ocean is really in our blood” – words spoken by the late Teresia Teaiwa. Words that resonate with many Maori, Polynesians and Micronesians. Vai is film that portrays 8 different stories of 8 different women, each woman named “Vai” which in Maori, Pasifika and Micronesian languages translates into water. Vai (water) is the connection, the link between these 8 diverse wahine: Becs Arahanga, Amberley Jo Aumua, Matasila Freshwater, Dianna Fuemana, Mīria George, ‘Ofa-ki Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Nicole Whippy & Marina Alofaiga McCartney and their diverse stories.
The film opens up with the story of a little girl, Vai of Fiji. Vai of Fiji, named after her grandmother is preparing for a move from her homeland Fiji to New Zealand. This first story highlights a reality many of us can resonate with as we too, have experienced our parents migrating to New Zealand for work or education purposes. As the film continues on, various stories are explained and each story different from another yet the themes very similar. These themes are viewed as realities for many of Maori, Polynesian and Micronesian descent.
The words spoken by Vai of New Zealand born Samoan “I know what I’m capable of but you just won’t listen to me… My family, my village have sacrificed so much for me to be here. And I’m not going to waste it” are words that hit home for me and I’m sure for others. Growing up as a New Zealand born Samoan, I too, could relate easily to the reality we face juggling family commitments, work to make ends meet and university studies. We’ve grown up to believe that education here is going to lead to us to a better path but in cases like Vai of New Zealand born Samoan, this was not the case. The harsh reality faced is that sometimes, the systems in place are not catered for us in that way.
As we see different stories of Vai, we are emerged into each various story and for any movie goer, the story that resonates with me may not be the same to the next person. However, every cinematic chapter links to each other with Vai being it’s connection highlighting that the power as a collective is not one to be underestimated. It is evident that there is underrepresentation of our brown wahine in many industries. Yet, Vai provides the perfect opportunity for watchers to dive into a female empowering film, written, produced and directed only by women.
I attended the Advanced Screening of Vai Film which meant I was among the very first in all of New Zealand to have seen the film. To be able to attend this film was a privilege and an honour to celebrate the various women with their stories on International Women’s Day (8th of March) for 2019. Throughout each cinematic chapter, I immersed myself into each story and was moved by the ending chapter of Wahine Toa, Vai of Aotearoa who is much older than Vai of Fiji. This final chapter shows love, new life and family that is full of life. It is important to know that family is a big theme that is recurring throughout each story explained which everyone who watches this film will be able to resonate with.
Vai Film is definitely one for the big screens – Vai opened the 2019 “Berlinale Goes Kiez” taking stories of our strong women all the way to Berlin. Vai Film then had it’s NZ Premiere at the Maoriland Film Festival on the 20th of March and then it’s Auckland Premiere at Hoyts Sylvia Park on March 3rd which catered to over 800 attendees. If you haven’t gone to see the film, I strongly recommend you do so while it’s still showing in Cinemas. It is time for the stories of our indigenous people to be told, for conversations to be sparked up and for more representation in various industries.