EXCLUSIVE: Lightyear Entertainment has licensed U.S. rights to Tanna, the first feature to be fully shot in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. The Romeo and Juliet tale directed by Aussie documentary filmmakers Bentley Dean and Martin Butler premiered at the Venice Film Festival in the fall and won the audience award in the International Critics Week sidebar as well as the Best Cinematography prize for Dean. Lightyear plans a theatrical release in May.

Dean and Butler spent several months in the city of Yakel crafting the screenplay with Master And Commander and Happy Feet scribe John Collee, The story: On the lush tropical island of Tanna the conviction of two star-crossed lovers will change their tribe’s culture forever. Wawa, being readied for the ceremony that will recognize her as a grown woman, is in love with the handsome grandson of the tribal chief. When, as part of an effort to prevent a war, Wawa is betrothed to a man from another tribe, she must choose between loyalty to her clan and her own heart.

The mostly Yakel cast performed in their native Nauvhal language having never seen a movie or a camera before.

Butler, Dean and Carolyn Johnson are producers. The rights were licensed from New York-based Visit Films.