The office of Nei Tabera Ni Kai (NTK), a film unit based in the town of Taborio, in the small island nation of Kiribati, is a small concrete building situated two metres above sea level, thirty metres from the lagoon on one side and forty-five metres from the ocean on the other. Stacked under the louvered glass windows of one of its small rooms are 200 internal hard drives taken from computers over a period of twenty years. The office has no air conditioning, and the air is salty; there are regular electricity blackouts; and higher than normal wave surges, or “king tides”, threaten the town – and the whole southern end of the atoll, South Tarawa, on which it is located – more frequently than they used to.
Once a Kiribati household name, NTK has not worked on major projects for a couple of years. One of the co-founders, John Anderson, cameraman and editor, passed away in 2016. His long-time partner, producer, manager and scriptwriter Linda Uan, has been dealing with the loss and reflecting on the best way to preserve their shared legacy. The independent film unit documented more than two decades of culture, history, creative arts practice, development, and social, heritage and environmental issues across the islands. In the absence of a national film agency or television media, NTK managed to piece together various sources of funding to work with government and communities to produce educational documentaries, feature films and “edutainment”. Their output had a significant impact on the scattered Kiribati population – people from other islands travelled to South Tarawa by boat or canoe just to pick up the latest VHS, and later DVD, of their productions.
This is an extract from Australian Foreign Affairs 6: Our Sphere of Influence. To read the full issue subscribe or buy the issue.