Overall Rating: 3/5
September 16, 2016
Dir. Bentley Dean, Martin Butler
Tanna, one of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Picture, is named for the South Pacific island that it was filmed on. The entire film was shot on location and tells the true story of a marriage dispute that occurred among the tribes on the island. Despite never having seen cameras before, the film’s actors mostly play themselves, speaking the Nauvhal and Nafe languages and reenacting the events that happened to them. Bentley Dean and his family even lived on the island for seven months before filming to allow for a more comfortable transition into production for the tribespeople.
The plot is similar in many ways to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and feels primarily like it is being told from the perspectives of the two young lovers who are the film’s central characters. However, it is not the plot itself but the way it is told that gives the film merit. An epic display of cinematography is used to personify landscapes and to illicit emotional responses that compliment and even overshadow the primal events of the film. It feels at times like a documentary more than a drama unfolding, but not necessarily in a bad way.
Tanna is an enormous undertaking and an inspiring project with real-life relevance, but the substance is lacking.