There Once was an Island

Briar March

The inhabitants of a low-lying island in the Pacific risk losing all their belongings in case of the island’s submersion as a result of global warming. Will the local people stay on their island or move to Papua New Guinea, leaving their country and their culture behind?

Takuu is a tiny island with just a few hundred inhabitants. It has no electricity, no shops and no regular boat connection to the mainland. People live off what the sea and their vegetable garden produce. Regularly, tidal waves surge onto the island, urging the Polynesian government to draw up a plan to transfer the islanders to the mainland. Driven by uncertainty about their future, the island dwellers have invited two scientists, oceanographer John Hunter and geomorphologist Scott Smithers, to assess the situation. The camera follows Teloo, Endar and Satty who hesitate between starting a new life in Bougainville, far away from their traditions, or staying on their island, where the battle against rising sea levels has only just begun.

In There Once Was an Island, audacious Teloo, Endar and Satty give a unique insight into the life and traditional culture of Takuum, revealing the human impact of climate change.


Briar March
Country of production
New Zealand
80 minutes
Spoken language
Production company
On the Level Productions
World Sales
Journeyman Pictures