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SHOOTING A FILM ON A REMOTE ISLAND

The children’s film THE TALE OF THE COCONUT was shot on the small island Karawara in Papua New Guinea. The story is based on the local legend of origin of the coconut, an oral lore that was passed on from one generation to the next. The film was produced by a German film crew in collaboration with the people of Karawara.

Berlin-based director Marc Thümmler first travelled to Papua New Guinea in 2012. As a guest in the village of Karawara he heard about a local legend that recounts the origin of the coconut. One year later he returned with two friends, a camera and the plan to turn the old tale into a children’s film.

The German film crew stayed on the island for 3 weeks. During that time the crew and the people of Karawara developed the script and shot the film.

FROM AN ORAL LORE TO A FILM

First, the elders from the village were asked to tell their versions of the oral lore. The individual narratives were written down, translated and merged into a first draft of the script, which everybody from the village could agree on.

In the context of a school workshop, students of Karawara Primary School were casted as actors and actresses. The students started to create their costumes and first scenes were rehearsed.

Subsequently, the crew and local villagers scouted shooting locations on Karawara and on neighboring islands. The people of the village built the sets and made props like rafts, bows and arrows. Overall, the entire village was involved in the project in one way or another, for example as supporting actors, craftsmen, caterers, drivers or translators.

Director’s statement: A FAIRY TALE FROM THE SOUTH SEA

"When I visited Papua New Guinea for the first time, I learned how incredibly rich the country is culturally. Its history and topography gave rise to an extremely broad diversity of cultures. From remote valleys of the highlands to small islands in the Pacific, close-knit local communities have preserved a countless number of exciting stories, told in over 800 languages.

One of those stories is The Tale of the Coconut. Due to its exotic setting, it at first glance seems very different from the stories and fairy tales I grew up with. But when we take a closer look, we can discern narrative elements familiar across cultures. In place of a dark forest, we have the open sea and instead of a wolf, we have a shark. Following this approach the short film The Tale of the Coconut allows us to recognize the universal scope of story telling. Therefore children from all over the world can relate to this exciting tale from a South Pacific, told by kids that aren’t so different from them after all."

Marc Thümmler, director & producer

CULTURAL EXCHANGE & SUSTAINABILTY

As a consequence of Papua New Guinea’s rapid economic and social change, even remote regions like small islands are opening up to the outside world. Beside their vernacular mother tongue and the national language Tok Pisin, children in Papua New Guinea learn English in school. This is an essential prerequisite for accessing higher education. Jointly with ongoing technical progress, this also leads to greater participation in global pop culture, especially through digital social networks. Most people own a mobile phone and many watch TV in English and are busy on Facebook.

The growing influence of global culture bears certain risks to local traditions. Vernacular languages are pushed back and old stories are threatened to fall into oblivion.

The short film The Tale of the Coconut contributes to the preservation and documentation of local stories by combining the strong narrative of an old legend with the appealing and easily distributable medium film.

In line with this ambition, the film will be distributed in four different (dubbed) language versions: English, German, Tok Pisin and the vernacular language of Karawara.

The German and English versions will be screened at international festivals and will allow an international audience of kids and grown-ups to get in touch with the life and the legends of Papua New Guinea.

The Tok Pisin version is designated for national distribution within Papua New Guinea. The vernacular version, on the other hand, will “return” to Karawara and will support local efforts to preserve cultural identities and story-telling traditions.