July 1975. Monica Flaherty, daughter of Robert and Francis Flaherty, cinéma vérité pioneer Ricky Leacock and Sarah Hudson – Ricky’s student at MIT – travel to Samoa, to the island of Savai’i. Monica’s aim is to create a perfect sound version of the silent feature film Moana (1926), directed by her parents in her childhood paradise.
Monica, Richard and Sarah record sounds scene by scene to match the initial ambience and action of Moana, “an authentic record of this dying culture”. Being alien to Samoan culture, Monica, Sarah and Ricky are soon pulled in a complex dynamics of gifts, exchange and honoring.
Sami van Ingen and Mika Taanila’s Monica in the South Seas subtly traces the layers of making a documentary film over decades and generations. In the 2010s van Ingen, a descendant of the Flahertys, and Bruce Posner restored Monica Flaherty Frassetto’s sound film version of her father’s silent classic, Moana with Sound (1980/2014). Now, van Ingen and Taanila dive into Monica’s ambitious project with a wealth of archive material – showing how the emotional return to the island and solving different practical sound issues in the 70s actually looked and sounded like. Monica in the South Seas depicts the care and ethics of documentary filmmaking beautifully.
Tytti Rantanen (translated by Inari Ylinen)
The directors Sami van Ingen and Mika Taanila are present in the screening on Fri, Feb 3 at 7 pm.