Co-director “Weaving the Streets” Mr Larry Thomas.
The prevalence of violence against women in the Pacific region is among the highest in the world, whilst women's parliamentary participation is amongst the lowest.
To address gender inequality and encourage women leaders in the region, the Pacific Community Filmmaking Consortium (PaCiFIC), is working with communities through films to create awareness on these issues.
The PaCiFIC consortium allows Pacific community based filmmakers to use film production as a way to open up alternative routes to understand and influence gender inequality in the Pacific.
The PaCiFIC project titled, Film4Gender, aims to enhance filmmaker visibility through screenings, online events and a website to showcase their work and highlights the potential of community media to effect social change.
Today, The University of the South Pacific
will launch seven films that will feature stories in support of gender equality and highlight local responses to gender based violence.
The films were produced during the global Covid-19 pandemic, and documents the impact of local restrictions on Pacific Islanders’ lives, especially for women.
The collection of 7 short films on gender equality screening today (Thursday 26th November) spans six Pacific countries – Papua New Guinea, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Samoa and Fiji. Fiji’s contribution including “Weaving the Streets” a transgender story from Fiji, directed by Larry Thomas and Joji Nabalarua.
Q and A with “Weaving the Streets” Co-director Mr Larry Thomas.
1. What drove you to be part of the Film4Gender project?
There was a call for Pacific Island filmmakers interested to submit a proposal to make a short film on gender. So we submitted our proposal and we were very happy that it was accepted.
2. How did you come up with the idea for “Weaving the Streets”?
In exploring the idea of gender, we thought of a number of 'stories' and how best to tell or find a story that would reflect the theme of the project. We were certain that perhaps no one would cover something on transgender. The more we thought about it, the more we were determined that we should tell a story on this subject. We wanted to 'push' the boundaries of gender and challenge ourselves to look at this issue. We pitched the idea to the coordinators of the project and they were very supportive.
3. How did you find and feature your actors/actresses for the film and what were some of the challenges that you came across when it came to finding the right person/people to feature in the film?
Our main protagonist is Rani Ravudi and this is her story. She is a trans person and very open about her identity as a transgender person. We see and hear throughout the film as she recounts her story. In order to illustrate certain memories of her story, in particular when she was a kid, we re-enacted those scenes. We selected, with Rani's help, a few children from her village and similarly the adults were also from her village. None of these people had acted, let alone appeared before a camera before but they did extremely well. With just some direction they understood what was required. For the street scenes in the evening, we managed to get a couple of Rani's friends who are also trans.
4. The film I believe emphasises on transgender and issues a Trans (like Rani) faces in our communities. How do you feel about Rani’s story being portrayed in the film?
It is not easy for Rani to "open" herself up for close scrutiny and to be very public about it. When we spoke with Rani we explained what the project was about and she was quite open to the idea of telling her story. She has been and continues to be an advocate for sex worker rights and also for the rights of the trans community in Fiji and in the film, she talks about this. She agreed to participate in this film not only to tell her story but in doing so, create more awareness about trans people in Fiji and the daily struggle and suffering they have to endure.
5. What was the experience like for you and your film crew?
It was a great learning experience for us. While we were generally aware of trans people, we discovered that we know very little, and more so the plight of trans people and what they have to put up with. We take it for granted, and because it doesn't concern us, we don't pay attention. For me personally, I consider myself very privileged to hear Rani's story and to be part of the process of bringing her story to the public.
6. What encouraged you to do filmmaking and what is your advice to young Pacific filmmakers?
I have always been interested in films from a very early age. Here in Fiji we don't have opportunities to learn about filmmaking and those of us who are involved have been more or less self-taught. My interest in the arts and in creative writing and studying media and communications helped a great deal to further my interest and work in this area. It is about passion. If you're interested in something and want to pursue your interest then having the passion for whatever it is goes a long way to fulfilling your interest.
Pacific Film4Gender project
Film4Gender is a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project supporting community-based filmmakers across the Pacific to produce films that support gender equality and highlight local community-led responses to gender based violence.
Pacific Film4Gender builds on previous Pacific and European events, networking and publications (Arts & Humanities Research Council Networking Project, Exploring Participatory Filmmaking as a Development Method to address Gender Inequality in the Pacific and the Scottish Funding Council “Pacific Connections: Community Filmmaking and Gender Inequality in the Pacific.
You can click on this link for further information: https://pacificfilm.net/
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