BULA! (Greetings) Arriving at Nadi (pronounced "Nandi"), we received a surprise in that our carnet (a document listing all equipment as non-tariff items) is not accepted in Fiji. We had a similar issue in Nepal. As it was 9:30 on a Sunday evening, we were unable to reach the special broker that can do the same service as the carnet does. Preparing to spend the night and possibly next few days guarding the sensitive and expensive camera equipment, I was extremely thankful that our host, Sachiko Soro, was able to locate a Customs Supervisor by phone and work out a suitable arrangement allowing us to bring our gear into the country!
The next day was b-roll shooting for the crew, while I worked with our home team of Sarah and Kensei to send the Fiji Film office all our various documentation. Thankfully, we received both the film permit and the drone permission in a few hours. Thanks to the goodwill created by Kenny Chaplin of the Film Industry Training Seminar and VOU itself, we were able to get our permit in record time. Thank you, Fiji Film!
Our residence was a lovely two-bedroom house about 15 minutes from Nadi, with a gorgeous swimming pool and most important, a laundry machine. Sadly, the region was hit with a water-turn off, meaning we had no way to wash clothes. We went on trickle showers and no laundry during that time.
We were grateful to be able to shoot some fire-dancing that evening, which our Director of Photography Henrik really wanted. Safety was our primary concern; thankfully, the troupe are skilled at safety as well as the actual fire-dancing!
Rising at 4 a.m. to bump down the unpaved hill roads and meet our dancers, we caravanned out to Natadola Beach to shoot our main dance segments. Twelve dancers dressed in traditional attire began dancing as the dawn's light lit the sky. The crew worked hard to capture the intricacies of their dance, despite the yielding sand underfoot and the many interruptions of rain, sun and cloud changes, and strolling people and horses.
We took a lunch break when the rain threatened our equipment, and hearing that the water was back in service, rushed to our dwelling to get laundry started. At four, we traveled to a different beach, close to Nadi, to shoot a few more scenes. The setting sun created a corona of light around the artists dancing in the gently lapping waves.
A moment of unforgettable beauty for me: at the end of the shoot, as I tried to express my thanks, they offered their own thanks in the traditional Fiji way: they knelt down and with cupped hands, clapped several times. I was overwhelmed by their depth of heart and this beautiful gesture.
After, Sachiko and Edward Soro, the directors of VOU, hosted us all to a delicious feast at a local restaurant.
VOU (meaning "New") performs locally and internationally. They provide education and opportunity for Fijians to engage in culturally meaningful dance and music, in a sustainable way. The troupe members learn management, choreographic skills and do much of the logistics and planning for the teaching, touring and local performing. VOU even has an ongoing troupe stationed in China, performing traditional Fijian dance for numerous shows there.
We really hated leaving this beautiful team. and the choreographer, Navi. Their vision, collaboration and family atmosphere really fit the purpose and heart of our film Vinaka, Fiji!