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Wantoks: dance of resilience in Melanesia

Iara Lee 19:59, US

In 2018, the Solomon Islands, in the South Pacific, hosted the Melanesian Arts & Cultural Festival, celebrating the country’s fortieth anniversary of independence. On neighboring island states, the struggle for freedom continues, as West Papua resists Indonesian occupation and the residents of New Caledonia still live under French rule. In all Melanesian countries, residents face the common challenge of climate change, as rising sea levels threaten to swallow both land and tradition. In this charged context, captivating performers are using their talents to celebrate local culture and draw international attention to their islands’ plight, with the hope of spurring international solidarity and prompting collective action against the perils of a warming world. Featuring striking footage from the South Pacific islands, Wantoks: dance of resilience in Melanesia profiles the artists and activists who are fighting for self-determination while trying to defend their homes against the rising sea. The film premiered in Helsinki, Finland in May 2019 and is now screening around the globe.

Iara Lee, a Brazilian of Korean descent, is an activist, filmmaker, and founder/director of the Cultures of Resistance Network, an organisation that promotes global solidarity and supports agitators, educators, farmers, and artists to build a more just and peaceful world through creative resistance and nonviolent action. Her films address topics that are often overlooked by the mainstream media – including indigenous rights, food sovereignty, and environmental justice – and are frequently set in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. They have shown across the world at events ranging from screenings in refugee camps and community centres to debuts at the Berlinale and Sundance festivals.