Synopsis

OCEANIA spans opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean in search of what ties our seemingly fragmented histories, separate experiences and separate fates together. The story is centered on the island nation of Kiribati—predicted to be uninhabitable by the year 2030 due to rising sea levels brought by climate change. Intimate narrative threads woven together from both sides of the equator re-orient our relationship to climate science data and facts—while inviting us to feel the emotional, social and psychological dimensions of the ecological crisis.

We first touch ground at the intersection of the equator and international dateline—the geographical center of the planet—where we are introduced to an I-Kiribati traditional community feeling the effects of geological-scale change firsthand. An extended family living at the shore’s edge shares dreams, myths, rituals, songs and the ancient life-sustaining material practices that have kept their lives between land and sea in a delicate balance for millennia. Despite the island’s lack of “economic development,” we begin to understand and feel that the loss of such cultures and consciousness will have great implications for us all. Our main character, Tekinati, is a strong, soulful woman, and a mother of four. Her youngest son is now faced with a difficult choice—to stay and assist in preserving the life of his family or prepare for what rising tides may bring. As this poetic and intimate portrait of an island village unfolds, we will juxtapose it with the techno-industrial landscapes of the “developed” world.

In contrast to the intimacy of the I-Kiribati relationship to the ocean, we survey the sprawling, standardized landscape of the contemporary port with its automated machinery and inhuman scale. Here we see a condensed portrait of the global supply chain—the logistical systems dependent on constant growth and movement that is warming the planet and wrecking ecosystems. The container ship, with a length of up to 400m, a width of 59m, and a capacity of 18,270 containers, is the contemporary techno-leviathan—an ominous beast that serves as cinematic antagonist and Nareau-the-Creator’s nemesis. We will explore the ways in which the economic imperatives driving capitalist globalization create a planet-scale “rift” between human lives and the natural systems upon which we depend for survival. As Westerners, we stand at one edge of this rift, while Kiribati lies on the other. It is on this edge— atop military ruins, overlooking shipping lines and flanked by geological faults—that we invite the viewer (in the words of I-Kiribati poet Tanua Pine), to “let your mind unite with your heart.”