DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT:Tahitian music and dance are lively and fun to watch, and that is enough reason to make a documentary about them. However, there is even more: they tell stories, and reveal a culture which has impressive achievements that demonstrate that at the very least, you don't need modern technology to cross the vast sea. In our technology-dependent society, this is a lesson we would do well to remember.
We relied on a San Francisco Bay Area group called "Te Mana 'O Te Ra" for the fun part - the music and dance. In interviews, they talk about the musical instruments, as well as the stories that the dances tell. The performance and interviews are accompanied by a narration to provide the history and the context, and show off some of the wonderful things this society has developed.
DIRECTOR'S BIO: Ma has been a filmmaker since 2004. Essentially self-taught, her work has screened and been in festivals in seven countries on three continents. She produces and directs in both English and Spanish, and in certain respects considers herself an international version of Les Blank, or even a more world music-orientated version of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr..
Her passions are music, dance, and communicating; and she tries to combine each of these elements in her work, whether documentary, narrative, or experimental. Her earlier careers (history professor, lawyer, and non-profit administrator) also have a significant effect on her filmmaking.
Originally from the Philippines, Rey and Lisa Aguilar immigrated to the United States where they learned, and fell in love with, Tahitian music, dance and culture. They have made many trips to Tahiti, have been given Tahitian names, have had themselves tattooed in the traditional manner, have learned to speak Maori, and in general, have immersed themselves in all things Tahitian.
Lisa began learning Tahitian dance in the 1970s, and by 1979 was making a yearly trips to the islands to learn more of its culture as well as its dance. She has been the primary organizer of the group since its inception. The Aguilars thought of retiring in 2009 but Lisa's Tahitian teacher persuaded her to continue and as of 2016, the couple continued to give classes and present performances.
For many years, the group “Te Mana 'O Te Ra" has been featured seven times in San Francisco's prestigious Ethnic Dance Festival. They also performed in heivas throughout California, Nevada and Hawaii, and even in Tahiti, often winning prizes. The lead dancer in this documentary, Charity Offril, has won numerous awards and been successful in many competitions.
Artistic directors Rey and Lisa Aguilar founded the group in 1997 after participating in many other groups. Rey teaches the musicians and acts as lead musician, playing a wide variety of instruments. Lisa teaches and choreographs the dances, and instructs the dancers as to how to make the costumes - because each of them makes their own costumes! The Aguilars want to make the wider public aware of the beauty of Tahitian dance and culture, and the difference between Tahitian dance and of other Polynesians dances such as Hawaiian.
Richard R. Lee is best known for his long-running on-line interview show, Sidewalks Entertainment, a celebrity and music TV series he started back in 1988. The series is broadcast over various cable stations from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, and many cities in between. Lee acts as producer and co-host - and also is the series' creator.
In addition he has worked as programmer and in technical aspects of several television stations in the greater San Francisco Bay Area including KTVU, KRCB, and KFCB. He is currently senior production member and on-air programmer for KCRT-TV, the cable station for the city of Richmond, California.