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A family, pacific islands, and the end of the world. Millennium Island is personal documentary about climate change in Kiribati.
163 backers pledged $15,532 to help bring this project to life.

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Millennium Island
Millennium Island

Millennium Island is a personal documentary about climate change adaptation in the South Pacific Island nation of Kiribati.

Map of Kiribati
Map of Kiribati

Current Status: 

Thanks to ITVS’ Diversity Development Fund and Pacific Islanders in Communications R&D grant, my team and I have just completed our Research and Development trip to Kiribati. As the youngest recipient of these awards I know that the Millennium Island story and subject matter have proved themselves worthy of the confidence of the top granting institutions in the US. It has the potential to become one of the most cinematic and human stories to come out of the Climate Change dialogue yet!

  • But ALL this investment will go to waste if we can’t return to finish the story in time...
Lulu and Mike. R&D Tarawa, Kiribati.
Lulu and Mike. R&D Tarawa, Kiribati.

What’s at Stake?    

  • Kiribati was the first nation to see the millennium sunrise but with the new millennium it also became the first nation to be lost completely to climate change.

The sea level is rising. At an elevation of only 2 meters above sea level, these worldwide changes are most dramatically seen and felt here in Kiribati. The facts are in, Kiribati has anywhere from 30 to 60 years left before the entire nation will be underwater.

We are going underwater
We are going underwater

One Hundred Thousand people will lose their home and more importantly their culture. If we lose an atoll culture we lose an entire way of thinking and an entire system of human survival unique only to this region. Humanity would lose one of the few places on the planet where there is no such thing as an orphan, no such thing as a homeless person, and everyone has a role and place in society. 

But what does that mean for the Kiribati people? This is not a story of victims. This is the story of adaptation as told by myself and my family. My Mother Ntaene, step brother Miraka, and I all represent different aspects and main characters of the adaptation process: 

It's not politics, it's survival.
It's not politics, it's survival.

Adaptation: Develop, Prepare, and Rebuild.

I, Lulu (Kaeruru), am a half caste princess, whose journey to reconnect with my culture allows for a western audience a point of access into an otherwise foreign world. By bringing this story into the personal realm I hope to provide a human scale to the otherwise unfathomable vastness of climate change.

Miraka is the ambitious dreamer, representing the hope of the new generation, overcoming the loss of his own mother to earn a scholarship that will determine the rest of his life and his ability to protect those he loves.

Ntaene, is the Catholic mother, who struggles across borders to manage an ever scattered family and embodies an ongoing conflict between ancient Kiribati beliefs and imported Catholicism.

Character Stories 

  • DEVELOP

I, Lulu, a half cast I-Kiribati/American, grew up in rural East TX knowing that there existed in my heritage an exotic land called Kiribati, where families have magic powers to heal, protect, love, and kill. Having only been there for my 1st birthday, it seemed like a fairy tale. When I returned to Kiribati 23 years later, I not only found out I was indeed a part of a large and powerful family, but that my country is in grave and imminent danger from climate change. The rising tide is eating away at Kiribati's tiny landmass, drought and flooding are rampant, and the winds have literally changed.

On my home island of Tabiteuea, I take my ancestral place in the Maneaba of Kourabi. However, the lineage is questioned by some and the true oral histories have been lost in time. More disconcerting, Kourabi's traditional festival has been blocked by the Catholics of the island. 

At the airport, I was asked by the island council to bring the internet to Tabiteuea. It is clear the Kiribati has so much will and potential to develop. Some might say that it is pointless to develop a nation that will not exists in 30 years but the fighting spirit of Tabiteuea stuck with me and now, I am more determined than ever to bridge the cultural gap and encourage development in my homeland. 

Despite the beautiful and harsh environment, I found unconditional love and happiness with my Kiribati family; learning from them spearfishing, dance and many stories of climate change’s impact in everyone's life. My new step brother Miraka quickly became one of my best friends and guided me through my first lesson in surviving the atolls; how to climb a coconut tree.

  • PREPARE

Miraka is also half caste. His grandfather was a German whose identity was lost to time due to a miscommunication. A good student, with a magic gift for flirting, Miraka was set to get a scholarship after high school to study abroad. This scholarship is curitial in the lives of Kiribati youth whose generation is burdened with the responsibility of relocating their families when the tides finally claim the islands.

Miraka, age 21
Miraka, age 21

Though Miraka had good grades and was excited to venture into the western world; tragedy struck. Miraka’s mother became suddenly ill two weeks before the exams and like any true I-Kiribati, Miraka put family first and raced back to the capital island. There was nothing to be done at the hospital. Since his father was working on a ship Miraka made the call as the man of the house, to bring his mother out of the hospital so that she could die at home. She took her last breath in the ambulance en route with Miraka holding her hand numb with grief.

Friends of his mother gave Miraka an internship at their law firm in order to give him work experience and keep progressing him forward. Now Miraka is determined to pay back his mother’s love by fulfilling her wish that he succeed in school. A year later, THIS DECEMBER! Miraka, like so many others, will take the scholarship exam that determines his future.

  • REBUILD

Ntaene, Lulu mother, and Miraka’s step-mother, is a strong I-Kiribati Catholic woman whose American dream has faded into an all too familiar struggle for money. She supports not only the family in TX but also sends money back to the Islands, all while going to school herself and running a small business. As a Catholic and a member of the royal clan she is the only hope for bringing Kourabi’s festival back to it’s former glory and convincing the other Catholics that the Church should not destroy this ancient part of Kiribati history and culture.

flooded church Abaiang
flooded church Abaiang

Will Lulu develop internet in Tabiteuea, Will Miraka get a scholarship, Will Ntaene succeed in standing up against the Catholic church?

Climate change may be destroying the entire country of Kiribati but these characters and the rest of the I-Kiribati people are still fighting tooth and nail to develop, prepare, and rebuild.

Though we are a small nation, with the scarcest of resources, we are not apathetic in the face of climate change. Are you?

The Crew:

  • Director / Producer 

 Lulu (Kaeruru) DeBoer is a graduate of Stanford University with a BA in Film Studies and a minor in Music Science Technology. After graduation Lulu started Lulu Lens LLC , completed SIGM at the Stanford Business school, and was selected as a Flaherty fellow. She has international film experience from her previous work in Malaysia, Germany, Various Native American Tribes, and Kiribati. From her roots as a I-Kiribati and American, her role as a communicator between the cultures has become her passion and a driving force behind her filmmaking intuition. Her previous work includes countless shorts such as Love; (short), A World of Dew (short), Horror in Green (short), The Mermaid Lulu (webseries), Until We Meet Again (kickstarter funded short) and production assistance, under Marcus Vetter, for The Forecaster (feature documentary) and Promise (feature documentary) .

Lulu wearing the 1K level prize
Lulu wearing the 1K level prize
  • Producer 

Tommy Sowards is a veteran of Hollywood filmmaking. His beginnings in the world of Hip-Hop music expanded to include a documentary on the history of Hip-Hop Music; including Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaata, Ice Cube, the Neptunes, Wyclef Jean, Jean Paul and many others. In 2005, Tommy premiered “Slippin’: Ten Years with the Bloods” at the Tribeca Film Festival. It won best picture and best director at the Montenegro Film Festival and it went on to become a hit on the Showtime Network where it had the second highest rating at its time. It also took fifth place OnDemand tv. “Slippin’” comes back out on TV and on DVD in all the stores this December.

Top Level Prize
Top Level Prize
  • Director of Photography 

Michele Gentile was born in 1987 in Tübingen. He served in the Germany military where he made his first documentary "On Mission" about soldiers deployed in Afghanistan. Shortly thereafter, he was volunteering in the peace project "Cinema Jenin" in Palestine, teaching film and editing. Michele was also working as a cameraman for the films "After the Silence" by Jule Ott and Stephanie Buerger and "Cinema Jenin" by Marcus Vetter. In summer 2011 he started together with Marcus Vetter the movie "The Court", "The Forecaster" and "Promise". "The Court" came to theaters in 2013 and is the first feature-length documentary by Michele Gentile. In the meantime, he made the films "The Projectionist - The story of a film" and "Good bye Syria" for EinsPlus – LEBEN, a German TV channel. Since summer 2013 he is working on a feature-length documentary about a Syrian family.

Pacific Triton 1,200 prize
Pacific Triton 1,200 prize
  • Project Mentor

Tracy Rector (Seminole), Executive Director of Longhouse Media. Tracy earned her Masters in Education from Antioch University’s First Peoples Program specializing in Native American Studies, traditional plant medicine and documentary film. As the co-producer of the award-winning film Teachings of the Tree People, producer of March Point and director of Unreserved Tracy has developed an awareness and sensitivity to the power of media and film as a modern storytelling tool. Her work has been featured on Independent Lens, Cannes Film Festival, ImagineNative, National Geographic’s All Roads Film Project and in the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian. As a Native Education specialist, Tracy offers unique insight to her projects. Her vision is to bring traditional and contemporary education together on a foundation based in environmental stewardship. She is a recent Sundance Institute Lab Fellow and is the recipient of the Horace Mann Award for her work in utilizing media for social justice.She currently works and lives in Seattle with her two boys. Tracy is the Co-founder of Longhouse Media.

Turtle Family as part of 6,904 level prize
Turtle Family as part of 6,904 level prize
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Risks and challenges

Kiribati is an atoll nation with limited resources. Weathering the elements is always a challenge. Now that my team and I have successfully come back from a Research and Development trip we are more prepared than ever for the hardship and lifestyle of Kiribati. Already, we miss so much of island life.

The Festival of Kourabi is triggered by a dream making the exact timing of this critical event difficult to predict. However, I have made several contacts on the island of Tabiteuea who will keep me informed and up to date of any activity on the matter.

Keeping life and work separate is impossible for a filmmaker working on a personal documentary. However, the guidance of seasoned professional Tracy Rector has been invaluable and integral to the story development of Millennium Island. She keeps me in check.

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Funding period

- (29 days)