AM/NESIA: Forgotten “Archipelagos” of Oceania
“For production sites in this program, such as Hawai‘i and Guåhan (Guam), we have indicated colonized indigenous Pacific island territories by listing the occupying nation in brackets [ ] next to the name of the island or archipelago.”
Listening to the Neglected Voices of the Pacific Islands
The vast Pacific Islands region, also known as Oceania, is a blue “continent” of water—the largest inhabited place on earth; yet it is also among the most colonized areas on the planet, in the wake of successive empires over the past 500 years. Among the islands of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia, colonialism has silenced or ignored important Pacific Islander histories and identities. Japanese Empire and American Empire both persist, visibly and invisibly amidst the complexity of today’s Oceania, forming a forgotten geography of islands that we refer to in this special film program as AM/NESIA. This program aims to draw attention to indigenous voices of resistance and solidarity, especially in the intersection between the US and Japan in Northern Oceania, but also in places all over the region. Films are thematically curated into three main “archipelagos” of content—Crossings, Lands, and Bodies—and two Reef Reels programs containing selections of shorter pieces that connect all these themes together.
In Crossings, we aim to remember the complexity of forgotten migrations, cultural exchanges, and in-betweenness in Oceania, particularly between the Japanese archipelago and the Pacific Islands. Here we critically reconsider prewar Japanese propaganda films like Lifeline of the Sea in the context of contemporary Micronesia, while exploring the memories of Islanders, former settlers and soldiers. Between Tides contemplates the fraught history of the Ogasawara Islands, caught between American and Japanese empires. And with the world premiere of Tokyo Hula, we consider how Hawaiian cultural heritage has become a bridge that links Oceania with the Japanese contemporary imagination.
Films in the Lands archipelago concentrate on how Islanders struggle to decolonize their homelands against military, state, and industrial power. Land is of utmost importance to Islanders, whose identities and genealogies are interwoven with their ancestral places of inheritance. Nuclear Savage: The Islands of Secret Project 4.1 documents the devastating struggles of the people of Rongelap Atoll in the Marshall Islands as they fight for justice over their land in the face of American denial about damages and abuses related to Cold War nuclear testing in the 1940s–1950s. Anote’s Ark also shows how Islanders in low-lying countries deal with the problem of rising seas due to climate change—in this case in Kiribati, an island nation occupied by Japan during the Pacific War. A special video and performance program by the renowned Marshallese poet Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner weave these themes together as they speak to the twin traumas of environmental disaster and nuclear irradiation.
In the Bodies archipelago, we introduce works that focus intimately on how people’s identities and actual physical being have been marginalized, erased, or transformed by colonialism and militarism in Oceania. Senso Daughters reveals the devastating testimonies of women about sexual violence in wartime Japanese-occupied New Guinea. Militarism continues to transform local Islander lives today as well, as seen in the rigorous US military recruitment in the Federated States of Micronesia documented in Island Soldier. Likewise, the high rate of incarceration of Islanders shown in Out of State indicates how indigenous bodies are still regulated by imperial power. The fluidity and diversity of gender identity in Polynesia, meanwhile, is expressed poignantly in Kumu Hina, a film which shows how third-gender māhū identities were oppressed and forgotten as a result of intense missionary and colonial influence in Hawai‘i.
Two programs of short film pieces, Reef Reels, crisscross all of the three main themes, including short video pieces by Pacific Islander filmmakers such as Micki Davis and Leni Leon, and a talk session. LGBTQ Pacific Islander voices are also brought forth in works by the New Zealand-based young Islander art collective FAFSWAG.