There Once Was An Island: Te Henua e Nnoho

Guinea/New Zealand/USA 2010, Documentary, 80' | Director, Screenplay Briar March | Production Lyn Collie, On The Level Production | Distribution Journeyman Pictures

»The Takuu community have stressed to us that they feel they do not have a voice, and we hope that through this film we will be able to give them one.«
Briar March

Sea levels are rising slowly but inexorably. Again and again the Polynesian island of Takuu is submerged, and Teloo, Endar and Satty experience the catastrophe of climate change at first hand. They and their families have to choose: do we leave the island, and risk the demise of our more than one thousand-year-old culture, or do we stay and put our own survival at risk?
Together with Teloo, Endar and Satty, oceanographer John Hunter and geomorphologist Scott Smithers uncover the situation on the ground. What they find is a conflicting tangle of ecological and social disruption that took hold long before the floods on Takuu: the inhabitants live in large clans, operate a subsistence economy and maintain the unique culture and language of their ancestors. But the young people are learning English, studying on the mainland and aspiring to western standards: they want waste disposal, telephone lines and internet access. At the same time the fields are turning salty and the main source of food – the dalo – is becoming scarce. It is also a part of many traditional ceremonies in which it can now no longer be used. The sand that the islanders heap up to protect themselves from the impending floods is then missing from the ridge of the island, intensifying the problem of erosion instead of solving it. The floods leave chaos and disease in their wake.

There Once Was An Island: Te Henua e Nnoho follows the families as they try to decide what is more important: future or tradition. Teloo, Endar and Satty allow viewers an insight into their lives and lead them to question their own positions in their interaction with nature.


BRIAR MARCH is a documentary filmmaker and Fulbright scholar. Fascinated by a polarizing and colorful subject matter and angered by environmental and human rights issues, her films are diverse in style, but consistently grounded in a passionate desire to communicate. There Once was an Island: Te Henua e Nnoho, is Briar's current project. She also directed the documentary feature Allie Eagle and Me, plus a number of music videos, magazine shows, and commercials. Briar has worked closely with filmmaker Annie Goldson, has a production company, On the Level Productions, with Lyn Collie and is currently completing an MFA at Stanford University in California.

Films by Briar March
Promenade 2010 | Sick Wid It 2010 | Michael and His Dragon 2010 | Departure and Return 2006 | Allie Eagle and Me 2004

Briar March
New Zealand, USA, Guinea
Focus: Now What