Nominated for 5 Australian Academy Awards – the AACTRAS – including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, and Best Original Score.

Based on the true story and performed by the people of Yakel tanna-posterin Vanuatu. The critically acclaimed film is a living exploration into cultural anthropology with modern-day significance. The film’s stunning cinematography is rivaled only by the powerful reality that the people of Yakel live today the way they lived thousands of years ago.

Tanna was shot in an unusual way. None of the actors are literate or had any experience acting. The story and dialogue were developed through work-shopping and improvisation while on location.

Background: People first arrived on Tanna in Vanuatu about 3,000 years ago when the Lapita sailed from the Bismarck archipelago in Papua New Guinea to colonize the islands. They brought along pigs, chickens, pottery and a host of crops that are still the mainstay on Tanna today.

The English Captain James Cook was the first European to visit Tanna in 1774, followed by missionaries in the 19th century. In the mid 20th century, a powerful local movement rejecting the colonial presence emerged, advocating a return to Kastom and abandonment of western clothes, money and schools. Though the leaders were arrested, exiled, and imprisoned, the movement swept the island and still retains respect to this day.

Today, Yakel is one of a number of villages in Tanna’s central mountain chain that have held on to their fully traditional Kastom lifestyle, maintaining its belief system and social structure despite contact with the modern world. Theirs is a deliberate choice to protect and nurture the old ways.

tanna-pic-1The Yakel tribe of Tanna island, Vanuatu, still hunt with bows and arrows and make their clothes and houses entirely from materials gathered in the surrounding jungle. Their days begin with the rising sun and end with a kava ceremony at sunset. It’s a life that has all but disappeared in modern times, yet people here are proud of their culture – ‘Kastom’ – and want to share it with the rest of the world.

For seven months the filmmakers lived together with the tribe, exchanging food, stories, ceremonies, laughter, pain and adventures. The result is a wonderful production that brings to light an ancient culture that exists in our modern world.

Synopsis: Tanna is set in the South Pacific where Wawa, a young girl from one of the last traditional tribes, falls in love with her chief’s grandson, Dain. When an inter-tribal war escalates, Wawa is unknowingly betrothed as part of a peace deal. The young lovers run away, but are pursued by enemy warriors intent on killing them. They must choose between their hearts and the future of the tribe, while the villagers must wrestle with preserving their traditional culture and adapting it to the increasing outside demands for individual freedom.

The theatrically released film has played in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit Santa Fe and more, and is also touring through festivals world-wide. Below are just some of them:

Critics are raving about Tanna:

“The movie’s Australian directors, Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, who wrote the script with John Collee, have an attention to earthly detail that gives the movie a beauty to rival a nature documentary. But they also have a keen anthropological eye. The pair spent seven months with the tribe, getting to know its members and their traditions and rituals, which are seamlessly integrated into the plot, educating the viewer without making the tribe’s experience seem overly exotic.” – The Washington Post

tanna-pic3“For time out of mind, or at least as far back as Robert Flaherty’s 1926 “Moana” and F.W. Murnau’s 1931 “Tabu,” filmmakers have been going to the South Seas in search of exotic cultures and compelling stories. “Tanna” is the latest case in point, and one of the best.– Los Angeles Times

Tanna is a beautifully filmed tale about lovers who ultimately spurred real-life changes in tribal law regarding arranged marriages. Highly recommended” – Video Librarian

“Performances from the (untrained) cast are magnetic; if it was a challenge for them to learn how to act in front of a camera, they certainly don’t show it. And while in a narrative sense this ground has been walked many times before, the Yakel people’s passion to tell this story is undoubtedly at the heart of the film’s success. Tanna has a warm, shimmering vitality. Like the trees and the birds, the frame feels alive.” – The Guardian

“Written in collaboration with the Yakel tribe — who also acted in the movie — made Tanna amazingly authentic. The actors had no previous acting experience, yet they all mastered emotional storytelling. Their impressive acting skills are the reason this film is a must see. ” – The Eagle

The sight of kids joyously playing with a “penis sheath” is enough to make Tanna recommendable, but fortunately, there’s also far more to Bentley Dean and Martin Butler’s ethnographic drama…” – The Village Voice

DVD edition includes the short film “Story of The Making of Tanna”

103 minutes on 1 disc / Nauvhal w/ English sub-titles / 2016 theatrical release


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In-home/personal use copies available through Amazon in March 2017: