Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
Eight Indigenous women filmmakers from seven Pacific Island cultures join forces to tell this majestic portmanteau tale of one woman’s life. When we first meet Vai she is a playful seven-year-old in Fiji, being forced to leave for New Zealand with her pregnant mother. We follow her various incarnations through Tonga, the Solomon and Cook Islands, Samoa, Niue and finally Aoteaora (New Zealand) as each director tells her own powerful tale of womanhood, tradition and change. Sweeping widescreen cinematography puts the vibrancy and colour of the South Pacific on full display, while each story captures a slice of individual culture.
"Vai" means water in every Indigenous language featured in the film. Each vignette, through the different stages of youth, adulthood, motherhood and old age, connects Vai’s life to the water around her - whether she is fighting to protect it from corporate forces, dreaming of family across the ocean, or anointing her great-granddaughter in sacred river waters. Vai is a sobering acknowledgment of colonialism’s legacy as much as it is a celebratory story about the generational resilience of women as matriarchs, providers, warriors, and healers.
"A reaffirmation of cultural identity and a showcase of the strength of women’s stories." - Monica Castillo, RogertEbert.com