Tanna, the first feature to be fully shot in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, has been selected by Australia as its selection for the 2017 Foreign Language Oscar race. The Romeo and Juliet tale is directed by Aussie documentary filmmakers Bentley Dean and Martin Butler. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year and won the audience award in the International Critics Week sidebar as well as the Best Cinematography prize for Dean.
The news comes as Lightyear Entertainment, which licensed U.S. rights to the pic in February, readies a U.S. platform release beginning September 16 in New York (it expands to L.A. and San Francisco the next weekend). The choice was made and announced by Aussie government agency Screen Australia.
Based on a true story, the Nauvhal-language film takes the audience into the way of life of the people of Tanna in Vanuatu. The cast is comprised mostly of people from the village of Yakel who had never seen a movie or a camera before, and the film is based on a song about two young lovers who defied the ancient laws of arranged marriage.
Graeme Mason, CEO of Screen Australia said: “Tanna does what all great films aspire to do: transport you out of your seat and keep you completely riveted as you dive into another world. It’s a simple and universal story told with such impressive nuance and looks extraordinary on screen. It’s a great privilege to submit Tanna to the Academy on behalf of Australia, the filmmakers and the people of Yakel.”