Saturday, March 4, 2017

Blu-ray/DVDebut: Martin Butler and Bentley Dean's BFLF Nominee TANNA arrives on video

Certainly the most visually gorgeous of the five Best Foreign Language Film nominees, TANNA -- which hits home video this coming week -- is a spectacularly beautiful movie. Rather than being (as TrustMovies imagined) the name of a character in the film, Tanna is actually an island in the Venuatu group located in the South Pacific. The main characters in the film are Wawa and Dain, young lovers who defy their tribe's wishes in order to make a life together.

Yes, this is aboriginal culture as exotic and (somewhat) primitive as anything movies have given us in awhile -- in terms of color and landscape and flesh. The flora and fauna are particularly lovely, brought to especially interesting life as a father and daughter walk along a path ingesting a snack of cicadas. We even get a live volcano, with a goddess named Yahul to go with it.

The story is simple but stirring: Arranged marriage is a hallmark of the tribes on the island -- two of which seem to be constantly warring with each other -- and the young woman Wawa (played by Marie Wawa, above), is about to be given in marriage as a kind of peace offering to the other tribe. Wawa loves Dain (played by Mungau Dain, below), the grandson of the chief of their tribe, and he returns that love, but, hey, the good of the tribe must come first.

Writers/directors Martin Butler (at right, below) and Bentley Dean (at left, below) offer us, along with their simple but compelling story, enough of the culture and habits of the tribe to keep our interest primed, and the various actors -- all tribes-men and -women -- seem real enough to properly anchor the tale.

How it all works out becomes a kind of Romeo & Juliet story -- but to a purpose. Along the way, we get near-murder, tribal betrayal, banishment, a chase, and finally sacrifice that brings to the fore the importance of romantic love.

The marketing for the movie bills it as a true story, though the end credits assure us that all the characters here are fictitious. Well, why not have it both ways? Out of all the many fine foreign-language films that the Academy could have chosen, this one may strike some as a tad too simple. But it is quite beautiful and, in its way, compelling enough to warrant a watch.

From Lightyear Entertainment, Tanna hits the street on DVD and Blu-ray this coming Tuesday, March 7, for purchase and/or rental. The dialog is in one (or more) of the three languages spoken on Tanna, but the English subtitles are easily enough read.

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