‘The Island In Me’ – Talcual Films’ feature-length documentary about the atoll of Pukapuka – premieres this week at Cinequest Film and Creativity Festival in Mountain View, CA. The screening coincides with the release of an evocative music album composed by the People of Pukapuka and Nassau in collaboration with GRAMMY Award-winning composer and producer Todd Sickafoose. ‘The Island In Me (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” was released on August 11, 2023, by Secret Hatch Records and available on all digital platforms. Music lovers, ethnomusicologists, and aficionados of a cappella hymns will find themselves delighted with sounds rarely heard outside the archipelago.
Sickafoose, who composed the score for the film, shared “we aspired to create a feeling of openness that was oceanic – a sense of infinity – because that’s what you see in these images.” The album came out of a community collaboration and desire to showcase the voices of the atoll alongside Sickafoose’s score. The production team places vital emphasis on staying true to the historical traditions of Pukapuka’s musical culture.
For the film and album, Hawaii-based Director/Producer Gemma Cubero del Barrio worked closely with the island. “The whole project—from organizing a sports day to using drone and underwater footage from local cinematographer Kolee Tinga—involved the full collaboration with all the villages, island chiefs, and government officials,” shares Cubero del Barrio. “The whole island got behind the project and wanted to showcase the best of Pukapuka to the world.” Towards the end of filming, a few local musicians came up to her and said, “we have composed music for the film.” This track became ‘Homecoming Song,’ an emotional ballad sharing the love for land and home, accompanied with a stunning music video of images from Pukapuka.
The film touches on themes of remembrance, longing, and missing home, which wove its way into the soundtrack. Sickafoose shared: “The tone of the film is very musical. There’s a lot of space for just being in a spot and staying there for a while, lingering in an emotion. There’s a lot of longing in the film, and I think that quality is especially suited to being expressed in music.”
“Everyone in Pukapuka is a musician,” said Cubero del Barrio. For more than 2000 years, Pukapukans have been using their unique language and music to preserve their storytelling across generations with makos (old chants), and to celebrate their communal spirit with tilas (wrestling chants). While listening to the soundtrack, one can be transported to this unique atoll never captured on film and tape before. The church bell in the track titled Imene Apii Sabati reveals the spiritual nature of the people and place. In the Elder Makos “Ulu Ia Meli ia Waleeu,” thevoices of elders joyfully pass wisdom to new generations. Younger voices are also present in the album – through the performance of National Anthem by children of the Niua School, and a Tila.
The story of the film, spanning across many generations, evokes questions about identity, belonging, and much more. Gemma Cubero del Barrio captures these complex ideas with the subtlety and nuance. “I’ve always believed that the language of cinema and sound allows us to connect with the heart of people, across space and time. My intention is that viewers will be touched by the magic and beauty of the indigenous people of Pukapuka, and by the emotion and humanity in the stories we tell, that resonate from the personal to the universal. By the end of viewing the film or listening to the soundtrack, the island will be in you as well.”
Before its premiere at Cinequest this week, the documentary won the Special Jury Prize at the Festival International du Film Documentaire Océanien, in Tahiti, travelled through major cities in New Zealand with sold out venues during DocEdge Festival and celebrated its home premiere at the Hawai’i International Film Festival.
The film’s soundtrack is now available on Spotify, Apple Music, and all major digital platforms. Two of the album’s songs have full music videos taking listeners on a poetic musical journey.
All proceeds from the album will benefit the Kau Wo Wolo (Island Chiefs)/ Pukapukan People’s Fund directly benefiting the atoll.
Listen to The Island In Me (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) here: https://lnk.to/toddsickafoose_theisland
Cinequest Film and Creativity Festival: https://www.cinequest.org/
“The Island In Me” film page at Cinequest
Link to “The Island In Me” (Title track) Video:
Link to “Homecoming Song” Video:
Link to “Intro to the Album” Video:
Link to “Director Talks” Video:
Film Trailer, film news and more on Gemma Cubero del Barrio: https://www.gemmacuberofilms.com/news