South Pacific love story emerges as a foreign language Oscars contender


5c753b343013d6e932290bd88b819331WHEN Bentley Dean uprooted his family to a small island in the South Pacific while he waited for his next film project, he never imagined it could end in an Academy Award.

The West Footscray co-director’s feature film Tanna has been endorsed as Australia’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2017 Oscars.

Dean said he and co-director Martin Butler were absolutely thrilled to be recognised and never dreamt the movie, the first feature film made in Vanuatu, would be a critically acclaimed success.

“It is quite surreal,” he said. “Martin and I had no experience in making a feature film prior to Tanna, nor did those who we were working with over in Tanna.

“When we first arrived in the village the people, who wear penis sheaths, grass skirts and hunt with bows and arrows had never seen a feature film before, let alone acted in one.”

The Nauvhal language film came about after Dean expressed an interest in exposing his young children, four and two, to an exotic and traditional culture.

“Martin and I were in between projects and we were waiting for our next project to start and I had six months up my sleeve,” he said.

“So we ended up going to Tanna and living there for six months on a dirt floor in a thatched hut and it took three months before we even started filming.”

Dean said the cast comprised people from the village of Yakel and the film was a cinematic translation of a song about two lovers who dared to defy the ancient laws of arranged marriage. Read more.