Meli and Avito Alefosio live on one of the most remote islands in the world: Nukunonu, a tiny Pacific atoll of Tokelau. Convinced by a visiting Kiwi doctor that their blind son Joseph would have better opportunities in New Zealand, they set sail with their children in 1976. They leave behind their close-knit community and the way of life for a place where they don’t speak the language or understand the culture.
Meli recalls vivid memories of her idyllic childhood, from fishing with her dad in the outrigger canoe to her first encounter with a Palagi – a foreigner. Her childhood was spent swimming in the lagoons, collecting coconuts and watching bingo games played by the adults at night. Tokelau nestles in peaceful isolation, with only the occasional sea bird to be seen on the horizon and no sounds to be heard other than the distant roar of breaking surf or the Sunday churchbell.
The film explores the life of this Tokelauan family who arrive in the big, bustling city of Auckland, New Zealand having only known their tiny island way of life. In a foreign country and culture, they valiantly struggle to adapt while at the same time, keep their songs, traditions and language alive. They tell stories of their beautiful homeland to their 4 children, some of whom have never visited Tokelau. They also struggle to reconcile the value they place on family with the fact that they left behind their ageing parents. 43 years on, Meli and Avito have become the heart of a new community in Naenae, Wellington where they strive to continue the culture of their home.
Directed by Valeriya Golovina
Produced by Niamh Swannack
About the filmmaker: Valeriya is an experienced filmmaker, facilitator of workshops, and has worked in independent film, performances and video art. Her creative interest lies in the intersection of photography, writing and documentary based projects that reveal personal narratives and complicate official stories with fixed perspectives. She aims to explore the complexity of the world and its diversity by telling individual and community stories within their local contexts. Valeriya has directed short documentaries and video installations, and worked as a cinematographer on more than a dozen narrative and documentary shorts. In 2020, Valeriya completed her MFA in Film at Victoria University of Wellington. Currently, she serves as an editor on a feature documentary film on the history of a Cambodian family surviving the Khmer Rouge regime and as an independent cinematographer.
“Vā is the space between, the betweenness, not empty space, not space that separates but space that relates,…