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Distant Learning

Directed by Sergio M. Rapu and Elena GK Rapu

A Rapanui filmmaker and father living in the American Midwest never imagined he would lose his ability to return to the land of his ancestors. With airplane travel cut off to his home island of Rapa Nui to prevent the spread of COVID 19, Sergio Rapu is isolated and detached from his culture. As the pandemic continues to grow, Sergio and Elena decide not to send their eldest son back to preschool. Instead, in an attempt to feel more connected, Sergio takes on the task of teaching Koa and his younger brother Tai Mana the little that he knows about his culture’s language, arts, and mythologies. At the same time, Sergio takes steps to strengthen his own cultural understanding by enrolling in a virtual Rapanui language class and building a traditional umu, earth oven, in their backyard. As summer quickly turns to winter and snow begins to fall, the Rapu family attempts to light their new umu and comes to terms with what it means to be islanders living outside of the Pacific.

Directed by Sergio M. Rapu and Elena GK Rapu

About the filmmaker: Sergio Mata’u Rapu was born on Easter Island, the most remote island in the Pacific, at a time when it had very little contact with the outside world. There, surrounded by a simple life within a rich cultural heritage, he gained an appreciation for the power of story to build community and compassion between people. Years later his family moved to the US and Sergio studied TV production at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA. Since then, he has produced documentary specials and series that have aired on History, Travel, Discovery, National Geographic, and PBS. As one of the only native Rapanui working in production in an English speaking country, he seeks to bolster indigenous producers at all levels and types of media. Sergio aims to show the complexity of life through thought-provoking media that can inspire resolutions to social, economic, and environmental conflicts.

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