Tiny nation in the middle of Pacific Ocean struggles with globalization and plastic pollution, in an illuminating documentary that is both a call to action and a fascinating piece of ethnography
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, is a Chilean colony in the Pacific Ocean, that everyone knows because of the striking statues of Moai. However, it’s currently moving further away from its image of virgin land and a paradise, as globalization and tourism move in at full speed. The film centers on three different aspects of the way the island is changing. Mama Piru is a local sustainability activist who tries almost single-handedly to rid the island of plastic pollution. A couple of musicians opens up the first music school on the island in a crowd-funded building made of sustainable materials. And a developer marks the island’s foray into capitalism by opening Rapa Nui’s first mall.
WHO MADE IT: Sergio Mata’u Rapu is a young but prodigious documentary film-maker for the likes of National Geographic and History Channel. “Eating Up Easter” is his first independently made feature. His wife, Elena Rapu, wrote the screenplay and co-produced. Sergio Rapu Haoa, the developer, is Rapu’s father, and before embarking on his career in development, he was the island’s first native governor. Meanwhile, the musicians who open the school are Mahani Teave, the island’s only classical musician, who has many international awards under her belt, and her husband, Enrique Icka. We don’t usually shed light on production companies and distributors here, but Plastic Oceans seems worthy of mention. They deal exclusively with films centered around the impact of plastic on the planet: a genius kind of endeavor.
WHY DO WE CARE: Easter Island is perhaps one of the most curiously underexplored areas of our world. “Eating Up Easter” was the first contemporary cultural artifact I had ever explored from there, and it turned out to be a fantastic primer. Because Rapu narrates the film as an introduction to his heritage for his American-born baby son, the pace is measured and accessible. All the right stops are made to be able to establish the geographic context faithfully. And the three stories at the center, Mama Piru’s gumption, the musicians’ idealism, and papa Rapu’s determination, are all exquisitely presented to allow for a multi-faceted view of the island’s life. Rapa Nui is only a little over 60 square miles, and it seems like every square inch makes it into the film, so dense and populated it is with plot and meaning, and so full of beauty of the island’s traditional culture.
WHY YOU NEED TO WATCH: “Eating Up Easter” is a very compact view on the plastic catastrophe that’s facing the planet. Being an isolated nation, Rapa Nui was the last to savor the benefits of omnipresent plastics, and the last to begin suffering from their damage. And because of the island’s small scale, it’s easy to see just how quickly the plastic issue gets out of control. Looking at the way Rapa Nui battles globalization and climate change is not only a fascinating microcosm. It’s also a case study that will shed light on how possible the aversion of our catastrophe worldwide. “Eating Up Easter” is a local story with drastic global implications and one of the most enlightening films to come out in the last few years.
Eating Up Easter, 2018
Director: Sergio Mata’u Rapu
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