Hawaii film to take on domestic violence in Rarotonga

Ikaika M Hussey

“Domestic violence is a problem in the Cook Islands.”

That’s what the government of the Cook Islands told a UN commission in 2007. A crew of UH film students is going to Rarotonga – the Cook Islands – in May to be part of the solution, with a story about a young girl who confronts intimate partner violence in a powerful and creative way.

Here’s Scoop.nz’s description of the film:

Erin’s film ‘A Little Girl’s War Cry’ deals with the touchy subject of domestic violence through the eyes of a young ten-year old Cook Island girl named Tiare, who shelters herself from reality by taking on the persona of a caped super hero. Tiare deals out justice to wicked monsters in a bid to save her precious Barbie doll. Influence from cultural elements of respect and pride eventually help Tiare to discover not only her identity but also her inner strength. Driven by the power of a mother and child’s love she finds the will to fight back.

The Hawaii team comprises four students of the Academy of Creative Media. Erin Lau is the writer and director; Bryan Ruiz is on sound; Jamie K. Poliahu is grip, and Kristin Kouke is director of photography.

Their film is part of Film Raro, a Rarotonga effort to brand the Cook Islands as “the film friendliest tropical location in the world.” COOKIWOOD, they’re calling it. The leaders of the effort have selected six film pitches to fund, and their footing much of the production costs.

Erin Lau answered some questions via email.

What got you interested in the topic?

When I first started writing the script for the FilmRaro Challenge, I wanted to write about something that was both relevant and important to the people of the Cook Islands. And as I started doing research, news stories and highlights of issues surrounding domestic violence against women in the Cook Islands caught my attention. Domestic violence is a common and serious problem not only in the Cook Islands, but well through out the Pacific and it is something that is universally recognized, that even if a person canʻt relate to the situation personally, they understand the seriousness of it and the affects it has on entire families. I also make my main character, Tiare, a reflection of female strength in order to try to capture that inner female spirit and strength needed to ultimately end issues like domestic violence. But there’s lots of underlying topics occurring in the film at the same time as well, such as love, sacrifice, family, and innocence that people can relate too and it can compel them to become emotionally invested.

What are you hoping to add to the conversation via the film?

I believe filmmaking is one of the most powerful mediums and my goal is to create films that will make a difference (even if just slightly) and help share the amazing and personal stories our cultures, world and people have to offer. Through Little Girl’s War Cry, I hope to capture the perspective and emotions a person, especially a young child, feels and see’s in her world when it is stained with violence. That’s what’s powerful about filmmaking; it can take us into a story at a deeper level with visuals and sounds, and make us believe we are there, compelling emotions of pain, sorrow, fear or love for these characters. Films have the power to move people and maybe by creating a film strong enough that strives to capture the perspective of a child victim and survivor of domestic violence, it will inspire people to want to do more in finding solutions to ending violence in homes.

Also, this is what I had written in the description on the fundraising page:

In the case of “Little Girl’s War Cry,” it is used to express the voices of women and children plagued by domestic violence in their homes. Domestic violence continues to be a widespread issue that is often left unreported, not only in the Pacific, but also worldwide. It is an issue that not only affects victims, but the lives of their families and communities as well. Although steps have been taken to tackle the problem in the Cook Islands, it still exists in silence. I hope to capture through this film, if even the slightest piece, the feelings and experiences children and women must endure in these cases, in hopes that it will move people to understand the seriousness of the issue and that in taking action, they can make a difference.

To support A Little Girl’s War Cry, visit their Indiegogo page or see them on Facebook.