Homecoming tells the story of climate change through two women who cross the Pacific to return to Pukapuka, the coral atoll where they grew up. A crossing point between Eastern and Western Polynesia, Pukapuka (or Te Ulu o Te Watu, “head of the rock”) has an ancient culture and distinct language maintained for over two thousand years. Today, only 450 people live here. The population continues to decline as the atoll faces rising tides, environmental migration, and cultural adaptation.
This feature-length documentary explores these environmental and social issues through two women writers and friends: Johnny Frisbie, a Pukapukan-American writer’s daughter, and Amelia Borofsky, an American anthropologist’s daughter. The film follows their return journey to this spiritual place. Along the way they speak with climate change experts, Pukapukan elders, and reunite with Johnny’s 84-year-old brother Charlie Frisbie who still lives on the atoll, and whom Johnny has not seen in decades. The film offers a moving poetic meditation on climate change, memory, belonging, and the universal journey towards wholeness.
Why Have I Never Heard of Pukapuka?
Pukapuka lies in Polynesia, part of the Cook Islands, an island nation of 15 islands covering 690,000 square miles of ocean. On this 3 sq km atoll, also known as Te Ulu-o-Te-Watu (‘head of the rock’), boats and planes visit infrequently.
- Archeological evidence shows carbon dating from Pukapuka from the second or third centuries B.C.
- Pukapuka was once the ‘Timbuktu’ of the Pacific. Voyaging canoes stopped here en route between Eastern and Western Polynesia.
- The Pukapukan language is an ancient Polynesian language unique in the Cook Islands.
- American Writer Robert Dean Frisbie was the first to write about the atoll for an American audience in his six novels from the 1920’s
- His daughter, Johnny Florence Frisbie, published Miss Ulysses of Pukapuka in 1948 at age 15 and became the first published Pacific Islander.
- More anthropologists have studied Pukapuka than anywhere else in the Cook Islands. [i.e. Robert Borofsky and Ernest Beaglehole].
- Pukapuka sits 1 meter above sea level at its lowest point and 12 meters above sea level at its highest point. Satellite data indicates the sea level has risen near the Cook Islands at 4 mm per year since 1993 and ocean acidification increased. The climate change projections include hotter temperatures, more tropical cyclones, more rainfall, storm surges, costal flooding, and the rising of the sea.
- Pukapukans possess rich indigenous environmental knowledge and use complex tapu (rules) to protect their food resources. People know how to survive and adapt to their environment. Pukapuka is considered one of the most traditional Polynesian atolls left.
It's time to share Pukapuka’s story with the world!
This film has been in research and development for three years. We already received generous funding from Pacific Islanders in Communications, La Fetra Foundation, Nu Lambda Trust, individual donors, and in-kind services for pre-production. Pukapukans, and supporters of Pukapuka, asked us to make this film and we have received generous permission and unprecedented access. Now we need YOU, our kickstarter supporters to help us raise the funds to film in Pukapuka and complete production.
The full 12-minute trailer:
This trailer introduces you to the film’s main themes of climate change, memory, pacific, writing, women, and home, which we will expand for the full-length film. Shot in a hybrid cinema vérité style with informal interviews, memorabilia and rare vintage footage, the trailer gives you a glimpse of the film’s intimate style and unique point of view.
In 2005, Cyclone Percy devastated Pukapuka, destroying homes and flooding the taro swamps with salt water. After the cyclone, the population decreased from eight hundred to its current four-hundred-and-fifty. After two years, the steadfast population rebuilt the atoll and many say whatever happens, they will die with the land. Pukapukans know about survival and environmental adaptation.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna publicly announced that the Cook Islands will be entirely solar dependent by 2020. The government made a commitment to curb carbon emissions. New Zealand, Australia, and the European Union offered international climate change aid for the Cook Islands, building in Pukapuka the first solar farm, a cyclone shelter, and new water tanks. More than 93% of climate changeʻs impact is on the ocean. Globally, sea levels are rising at an estimated 3.18 inches a year (2014 United Nations Climate Change Report) and the atoll lies less than twelve meters above sea level at its highest point. Has the climate change discussion come too late? What can we still do?
Pukapukans know how to survive. They possess rich indigenous environmental knowledge and use complex tapu (rules) to protect resources. Help us put a human face to climate change. Help us tell Pukapukaʻs story.
The time to make this film is now. Climate change threatens Pacific atolls. Johnny Frisbie and Charlie Frisbie, both main characters are in their eighties. Transport to Pukapuka is difficult. In August 2015, we have a rare opportunity: passage on the low-carbon KWAI sailing cargo boat.
What You Can Do
Please share this Kickstarter campaign with your friends and family, on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. We have come to Kickstarter to reach as many people as possible. No gift is too small. When you donate, you are taking action on climate change. By supporting this campaign, you are making this film with us.
If you don’t have, or want to use, a credit card, send checks or money orders to:
1040 Kainui Drive
You will receive all your rewards.
How Your Support Will Help
The proceeds raised in our Kickstarter campaign will help pay for production. With $35,000 Johnny, Amelia and our small documentary film crew can travel and film in Pukapuka in August 2015 traveling aboard the KWAI (www.svkwai.com), the only commercial low carbon-emission cargo sailing vessel in the world. Then we must charter a costly charter flight with Air Rarotonga to leave. Pukapuka is extremely difficult to reach and has no regular transport, which makes it so special.
$35,000 is the bare-minimum goal to transport the characters and film crew to this remote atoll. We hope that with your support we will get to our “stretch goal” of $50,000 to cover the rest of principal photography in the Cook Islands. Once we reach our stretch goal we also plan to donate a percentage of all proceeds to supporting educational programs in Pukapuka. After production, we will return to Hawaiʻi with all the footage and principal photography to edit the film.
Help us share Pukapuka’s story with the world!
David Friedman prints (davidfriedmanart.com)
GEMMA CUBERO DEL BARRIO, PRODUCER, DIRECTOR, WRITER, CAMERA
Gemma is a bilingual writer, producer, and director with an MA from USC Annenberg School of Journalism. Her work through her documentary production company Talcual Films on films such as Ella Es El Matador (She Is The Matador) and El Abrazo (The Embrace) has been supported by international and national organizations. The award-winning Ella Es El Matador (She Is The Matador) had its broadcast première on POV, PBS. Gemma Cubero also worked as Associate Producer and Investigator on the award-winning documentary Señorita Extraviada by Lourdes Portillo’s and produced with Julio Medem two feature length documentaries What’s Under Your Hat? and One Percent: Schizophrenia.
VICENTE FRANCO, CINEMATOGRAPHER
Vicente Franco is a native of Madrid, Spain, based in San Francisco with more that 30 years of experience as director of photography, editor, director and producer. His documentary Daughter from Danang won the Grand Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002 and it was nominated to an Academy Award in 2003. He co-directed the PBS AMERICAN EXPERIENCE program Summer of Love and has done cinematography for more than fifty films. This is Vicente’s fourth collaboration with Gemma.
KYUNG LEE, EDITOR
Kyung is a videographer and editor based in the San Francisco Bay Area at work on her first feature-length film Telos: The Fantastic World of Eugene Tssui. She has worked as an editor and post-production manager at LinkTV and numerous other documentary projects. Kyung edited the film trailer and also the Kickstarter trailer.This is Kyung’s second collaboration with Gemma.
CELESTE CARRASCO, EDITOR
Celeste Carrasco is a native of Barcelona, Spain. She is the director, producer, cinematographer and co-editor Ella Es El Matador (She Is The Matador). As Production Manager, Celeste also worked with Gemma in Lourdes Portillo’s award winning documentary Señorita Extraviada. She has worked on numerous short films in Spain and San Francisco. Most recently Celeste works on operas by Rita Cosentino. such as Vanita which premiered at Teatro Real in Madrid and Java Suite at Peralada Festival, La Seca in Barcelona and the Basel Opera House in Switzerland. Celeste also collaborates with Spanish performing artist Paloma Calle. This is Celeste’s fourth collaboration with Gemma.
VIVIEN HILLGROVE, CONSULTING EDITOR
Vivien Hillgrove is a highly acclaimed editor whose extensive credits include Henry and June and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Her sound editing credits include Blue Velvet and Amadeus. Selected documentary work includes Heart of the Sea; The Devil Never Sleeps and Senorita Extraviada by Lourdes Portillo; and First Person Plural and In the Matter of Cha Jung He. This is Vivien’s fourth collaboration with Gemma.
Sound: Ray Day
Consulting Producer: Karin Williams
Consulting Writer: Laurie Coyle
Music: Michael Galasso, Pukapukan Chanting and Hymns
Writer and Additional Cinematography: Amelia Borofsky
Graphic Designer & Illustrator: Cat Daniels Riveros
Kickstarter Event Coordinator: Fe Bailey
Crowdfunding Advisors: Marty Syjuco & Michael Collins
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Risks and challenges
We have been working on this project for over three years. We have completed extensive research throughout the Pacific, collected magnificent pre-production footage, developed a gripping trailer, secured preliminary funding, and gathered a team of incredibly talented professionals and experts. We have succeeded in raising a significant amount of our budget including support from Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), La Fetra Foundation and Nu Lambda Trust to move the project forward. Because of the transportation challenges the filming of this documentary has to happen all in one trip. Our greatest challenge now is to raise the funds to make our production trip to Pukapuka all at once with our talented crew and two main characters. With your help this story will make it to the big screen—where it belongs!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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