Filmmaker Interview with Director Álvaro Farías

VOICES FROM THE SEA, Production Still

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there’s an island whose inhabitants subsistence depends on the sea. There has been an alarming decline of endemic species in their waters because of overfishing by international factory ships, as well as damaging plastic these same ships discard on their shores. This has led the Rapa Nui people to organize themselves. With an original soundtrack made by Ana Tijoux and narrated by Sylvia Earle, VOICES FROM THE SEA tells the story about the battle of a remote society to save the sea, and this action becomes an example of courage for the planet.

Director Álvaro Farías

What motivated you to make this film?

[Álvaro Farías] I was inspired by the unprecedented community organization established on Easter Island for the care of the sea and how these people located in the “Belly Button” of the world could inspire the rest of the world.

What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

We have two audiences, the first comprises decision makers. The idea behind them is to understand that decisions made in silos do not work for environmental issues, and for nothing really. With the second–the general public–the idea is to inspire an understanding that change depends on ourselves, and the basic rule is to converse with one another. The last thing that unites both worlds, is that we collectively understand that when we are surrounded by terrorists, drug dealers, corrupt business men, and politicians, we have to go back to the basics. To talk and discover that some answers are found in the “belly button of world”.

VOICES FROM THE SEA, Production Still

Tell us a bit about the process during and after production.

The process of the documentary was a real success. For over a year we did audiovisual track of what was happening on the island and about the care of the sea. Over the months–knowing the internal culture of the island–we realized that the social organization to this cause (create a marine reserve) it was unprecedented. What we did then, was create short video capsules that we gave to news shows Chile. There appeared a debate–the discussion about the issue on the island (five hours in a plane from continent). Then, the central government saw it on TV and realized that the people of Rapa Nui were really organized. So when they asked for a meeting with the president or a minister, the authorities already knew that this was a real representative of the island cause. This helped because once we had the documentary ready, the government decided to formally endorse the idea of the marine park and create legal institutions for it to be generated. Once we had the premiere, where Richard Branson, John Kerry and some Ministers of Chile attended, the Chilean media interest was generated by talk that this was a real and exciting story. Moreover, as we knew we needed more energy behind it, we invited a very prestigious Chilean artist for the soundtrack, Ana Tijoux, and we also invited Sylvia Earle to be our narrator as she’s an authority on conservation issues around the globe.

Above all this, the public, the media and the authorities had to add to the wave. After the formal premiere–with these authorities within the framework of the World Summit of the oceans–we also knew that Pearl Jam would be in Chile for a show in the biggest stadium Chile. So we sent the film to them through our contacts. They saw it and loaned us their screens to show the film to more than 50,000 people during primetime, 45 minutes before show. It was beautiful.

VOICES FROM THE SEA, Production Still

Where are things now?

What has now happened with the reserve is that the government has given the green light for the reserve to exist, now the work is defining the “how”–to start a process where the Rapa Nui reservation will decide how and what will happen, and what they need. There is a number of meetings with the community to find that formula. Alongside the Rapa Nui, there has been worldwide interest in this story, thus inspiring the creation of the first nonprofit organization out of Rapa Nui (based in Washington DC) to manage advice and resources globally, like a cultural embassy.

VOICES FROM THE SEA, Production Still

During production, how did your story evolve?

Everything was changing, we lived new experiences with the team that gave us a twist to our expectations and it was a great learning experience for engaging with communities.

Favorite memory–

While we’re shooting a Rapa Nui man began throwing stones at our drone because he didn’t knew what it was.

Other than a drone, what else did you shoot with?

FS700R Camera — Sony with Cannon Lenses — Red Line and a Drone

VOICES FROM THE SEA, Production Still

One thing you always take into the field and why–

My mind open to new feelings, all the gear doesn’t matter.

What advice can you give other impact filmmakers?

Respect to the communities you are working with and learn how to blend with them.

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Written by Erinn Sullivan, SIMA