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samedi 21 décembre 2013

Makatea today

The island again deserted

“Makatea, oblivion”, the film of Jacques Navarro Rovira, paints a vivid portrait of a dying island, because this last one has given too much of itself to men.

Ignored by tour operators as Polynesian authorities, Makatea Island , in the Tuamotu Archipelago, was nevertheless the first engine of the economic development of French Polynesia for over five long decades thanks to phosphate behind its surprising white cliffs.

In the abandoned coconut grove…
Thus, until the early 60s, the exploitation of precious ore has transformed Makatea into a totally out standards place among all the island small communities of the South Pacific.

Makatea, an exceptional island
In the height of mining activity, there were over 3000 inhabitants on the island.

The only train that ever rolled in French Polynesia was exploited, and for occupy the workers during their leisure time, the first cinema of the country was established there.

At that time, so more things happened in Makatea than at Papeete, yet the capital of French Polynesia. The whole economy of the territory was based on the wealth produced by this small island of the Tuamotu.

At the station of Falaise in the “blessed” time of the phosphate
Things changed abruptly in 1962 when the decision was taken to close the mine. This year, there were still 2,273 permanent residents on the island. Five years later, at the 1967 census, they were no more than 60 owners and fishermen, living in Makatea.

At the beginning of this 21st century, the question is: will it still possible to live Makatea in 10 years?

Year 2009, “Makatea, oblivion”
That’s what the movie tell us: “Makatea, oblivion”, directed by Jacques Navarro-Rovira and produced by Bleu Lagon Productions. And it does it superbly well.

Inga Pan, 100 meters above South Pacific
This medium-length, made in 2009, was broadcast for the first time on 15 September 2010 by the Polynesian TV Channel. This is a 52 minutes “docudrama” chronicling the unlikely stay of a violinist (remarkably played by Inga Pan) on an island with an unlikely destiny.

In the “vegetation-belly” of Makatea…
The shock of this encounter between a Western artist and people abandoned and totally isolated from the world in a bloodless island is astonishingly rendered by the beautiful images of Jacques Navarro-Rovira.

The distress and concerns of this population (French national: must it be remembered?), face a future at least compromise is perfectly highlighted by the film, as the majestic beauty and mystery that emerge from the earth bruised of Makatea.

No dialogue in this film: the traveler violinist expresses herself in voiceover. The inhabitants of the island, the mayor, the teacher or the grocer, speak by monologue in front of the camera, or by voiceover when they are on screen, busy chasing monstrous coconut crabs, for example.

And in the mineral belly of the phosphate island
Thus, when images sometimes breathtakingly beautiful scroll across the screen, marvelously sweet voices scatter little by little the terrifying report of a slow programmed death.

Makatea, chronicle of a desertification announced
In November 2009, after the first session of filming, there were still 49 permanent inhabitants on the atoll. A year later, they are no more than 39…

During filming, the only class had eight pupils. During the school year 2010, the teacher takes a class but only for four children… How long will the government retain a teaching position for four pupils?

The remains of the golden age of an island in agony
There are several projects to try to revive the moribund economy of the atoll, but none that find approval of the population. Yet it’s very urgent to act. Indeed, when the central government will decide it’s no longer justified to maintain the position of teacher, the remaining young people will leave the island permanently.

Below how many people will the health department decide to close the small clinic, yet vital to a population largely composed of retirees?

“Makatea, oblivion”, the film
With this film of Jacques Navarro-Rovira, Polynesian documentary experienced a significant breakthrough.

Straying from the beaten tracks both by the choice of subject as how to treat it, this film shows how the Polynesian audiovisual production was hitherto conventional and tasteless.

When Jacques Navarro Rovira talks about his film
From scenario to interpretation of Inga Pan, through quality shooting quality and the effective bearness of the directing and editing, there is nothing there to throw. Until music, anachronistic and unexpected that takes us by the hand to lead us through the maze of a desertification announced.

And I would like to specifically acknowledge here, with infinite respect, the extreme modesty with which the inhabitants of Makatea are expressing their deep concern about what the future may hold for their island and their small community.

“Makatea, oblivion” was presented in competition at the FIFO 2011 (International Festival of Oceanian Film) at Papeete. The audience like the jury was deeply affected.

It can only be hoped that it’s quickly broadcast on national television stations so that everyone can see this amazing film like the fate that awaits the people of Makatea.

“Makatea, oblivion” trailer
In conclusion, this small pearl film proves, if proof was needed, that Polynesia can offer cinema much more than simple decorations with fascinating blue lagoons.

To Jacques Navarro-Rovira and Bleu Lagon Productions, I give my most sincere thanks for allowing me to publish these few photos of the shoot, signed by the talented Lucien Pesquié.

An article of Julien Gué
Translated from French by Monak

Copyright Julien Gué. Ask for the author’s agreement before any reproduction of the text or the images on Internet or traditional press.

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