Butterfly/Butaplai: Papua New Guinea film’s NZ premiere at Māoriland Film Festival

A Papua New Guinean filmmaker who grew up in New Zealand has given “credit to America” for helping her “find her voice” and own her identity as a bi-racial women.

Butterfly/Butaplai premieres in New Zealand at the 2024 Māoriland Film Festival 2024 in Otaki on 23 March (tomorrow). The film will also play in Los Angeles on 26 April.

Director and writer Veialu Aila-Unsworth describes making the film as a deeply “healing and empowering” journey.

She said it was important to see a Papa New Guinean woman on the screen, telling a story from their point of view.

“I hope people realise Papa New Guineans are actors and have interesting stories. I hope it also inspires Pacific Islanders and indigenous people to tell their stories too, especially women.”

Butterfly/Butaplai explores lead actor Raya’s secret dream of being a makeup artist and her family’s strict religious beliefs. In a nightmare, she receives a profound message from her Papua New Guinean ancestor who encourages her to look at her Indigenous culture for answers.

Aila-Unsworth has woven parts of her own lived experiences in the film, shedding light on navigating different worlds and reconciling indigenous beliefs with Western ideas.

Veialu Aila-Unsworth

“Then you add another layer of your religion. It can be very confusing,” she said.

She said there is still some caution from the PNG community when it comes to how they are portrayed in film and television.

“There’s a lot of fears around the stereotyping of us – of Papua New Guineans of Pacific Islands.”

But she made sure to include the PNG community in the filmmaking process and said it was important for her to make it “empowering”.

“It become very important to me for my healing, and I hope for the community and their healing as well.”

Making Butterfly/Butaplai in the US was “very different to if I would have made it in New Zealand,” she said.

“I want to give some credit to America for helping me to find my voice.

Aila-Unsworth has woven parts of her own lived experiences in the film, shedding light on navigating different worlds and reconciling indigenous beliefs with Western ideas.

“In NZ, we don’t tend to be, you know, ‘look at me, look at me’. So it was very confronting at first, but it actually ended up being very liberating because I was able to learn a lot of people who were speaking on topics, like cultural identity and what it means to be in the diaspora, being mixed race, all the racial politics here and the population size, means incredible dialogue and conversation.”

She said the environment helped her grow “confidence” when talking about her own experience of being mixed race and “decolonising” by “overcoming old beliefs and old thoughts.”

Underrepresented filmmakers

Many Pacific islanders in the US are “trying to find our voices and break a lot of stereotypes,” she said.

“Therefore our storytelling is very layered with politics, very layered with nuances, because we come from different places and we all have different experiences of colonisation.”

Being a Papa New Guinean in America where there are just very few Papua New Guineans,”much of the time you feel invisible,” she said.

However, through the support of the Armed with a Camera Fellowship, awarded by visual communicators, she was able to write, produce and direct the film.

The non-profit organization’s mission is to develop and support the voices of Asian American & Pacific Islander filmmakers who empower communities and challenge perspectives.

Pacific and Asian film makers are grouped together in the United States under one category.

In May, the LA Pacific and Asian Film Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary, where they will feature films by diverse filmmakers in this arena.

“Their mission is to build communities and build bridges. They have a lot of integrity and helped me to understand cultural nuiances,” she said.

All six fellows were Pacific Islanders and all six films will be played at the Māoriland Film Festival.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button