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The Island in Me

THE ISLAND IN ME is a documentary feature that takes the viewer to the Polynesian atoll of Pukapuka, a unique place never before captured in film. With only four hundred inhabitants and ten meters above sea level, the atoll has stories to tell.

The film follows two women who grew up here and return home after decades away to find the atoll, and themselves, forever changed. Amelia Hokulea Borofsky, the daughter of anthropologist Robert Borofsky who lived in Pukapuka in the mid 1970’s and Johnny Frisbie, a Cook Island legend in her own right. Her book Miss Ulysses of Puka-Puka written at age fifteen, was the first published literary work by a Pacific Islander author. Filmmaker Gemma Cubero del Barrio also weaves in her own intimate story. THE ISLAND IN ME is a deeply moving, poetic, and reflective film on memory, loss, and the universal search for wholeness.

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Production Photos

Photography stills by Gabrielle Fa’ai’uaso.

Directors Statement

I would have never known of Pukapuka or Johnny Frisbie, if I had not met Amelia Borofsky in Hawai’i almost two decades ago.

My previous award-winning documentary Ella Es El Matador (She Is The Matador) was an idea that started by reading an article in the New York Times. Ella was a film also about two women who wanted to be part of the unique and masculine world of bullfighting. A documentary that explored one of the most controversial traditions in Spanish and Latin American culture. A story that I found outside of me but from my birth country – Spain.

The Island In Me is again a film about women, this time charting their own lives on a journey from Hawai’i across the Pacific ocean, to return to their beloved childhood home of Pukapuka – a rich and unique Polynesian culture in the Cook Islands, never captured in film before. The result is a much more personal documentary that I could have never found in the news.

During the ten years that I have been producing, directing and filming The Island In Me, the island of Pukapuka, her people and the protagonists of the film – both Johnny and Amelia have given me boundless gifts. In making this film I have gained greater understanding of how Pukapuka made a deep imprint on all of them, and how the experience has also transformed me.

I am eternally grateful to everyone who supported this film over the many years, in so many ways and also to my filmmaking team. My wish now is that I will take you on an evocative cinematic journey and when the film ends you will feel the island in you.

Thank you, atawaiwolo, gracias mil!

Gemma Cubero del Barrio, Talcual Films

List of Main Film Credits:

Director, Producer, Writer, Camera: Gemma Cubero del Barrio

Executive Producers: Gemma Cubero del Barrio, Suzanne LaFetra Collier

Executive Producer for Pacific Islanders In Communications (PIC): Leanne K. Ferrer

Editor: Kyung Lee

Music Composer: Todd Sickafoose

Pukapukan Music Recorded on Location: Al the villagers of Tawalalo, Tawangake & Nassau

Interviewees (In Order of Appearance): Amelia Rachel Hokuleʻa Borofsky, Florence Ngatokorua “Johnny” Tiane Frisbie, Nancy Schildt, Dr. Rob Borofsky, Charles Mataa Frisbie, Carla Ngatokorua Humphrey, Croc Coulter, Mama Nalui Taunga, Iotama Ravarua, Mama, Lakela Sekei Teophilo, Pila Ravarua, Linda Auora Mataora, Tim Anker

Cinematographer: Vicente Franco

Aerial and Underwater Photography: Kolee Tinga

Cameras: Gabrielle FaʻAiuaso, Kolee Tinga, Gemma Cubero del Barrio

Additional Cameras: Amelia Rachel Hokuleʻa Borofsky, Valerie Narte, Julian Zeman

Associate Producer: Haumea Hebenstreit Ho, Solomon Nio-Aporo, Will Oldham, Pio Ravarua

Production Coordinator, Rarotonga Unit: Maurice Newport & Motone Productions

Production Coordinator, Pukapuka Unit: Pio Ravarua

Sound Recording: Gemma Cubero del Barrio, Ray Day, Valerie Narte, Seve Taunga

Consulting Editors: Kate Amend, ACE, Celeste Carrasco, Shirley Thompson

Sound Mix and Design: Phil Perkins

Color and Online: Heather Weaver

Poster and Graphics: Relja Penezic

DCP: Simple DCP

This project was completed with the support of the Women Make Movies Production Assistance Program.

The Island in Me is a co-production of Talcual Films and Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC) with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

The Island in Me was produced by Talcual Films which is solely responsible for its content.

Thank you to our funders

La Fetra Foundation, Pacific Islanders In Communications, Kickstarter Campaign Backers, James G Hart Foundation,  UNDP Small Grants Programme, hosted by Cook Islands Red Cross Society, Nancy Kittle & Nu Lambda Trust, Individual donors and anonymous donors.