Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton, the producers behind 2017's eight-part portmanteau film Waru, deliver a similarly conceived follow-up comprised of eight ten-minute shorts filmed and set in seven Pacific Island countries: Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Kuki Airani (Cook Islands), Samoa, Niue and Aotearoa (twice).

Each segment was written and directed by a different female Pacific Island film-maker, and each presents a different stage in the life of a character after whom the film is named, a word that means "water" in many Pacific languages.

In the ethereal Solomon Island-set segment (written and directed by Matasila Freshwater), a 16-year-old Vai (Betsy Luitolo) argues with her mum while fishing, in the electric Cook Islands section (written and directed by Miria George), a 30-something Vai (Evotia-Rose Araiti) protests overfishing, for the subdued yet visually captivating Niue segment (written and directed by Dianna Fuemana), a 64-year-old Vai (Maliaga Erick) counsels her granddaughter.

It's not literally the same character in each short (the Vais all reflect the ethnicity of the Pacific Island on which their segment takes place, and speak that language), but a figurative life story is painted, and beautifully so.


New Zealand looms large in almost all of the stories, and the film benefits from exploring the complexity of our country's relationship to the Pacific Islands.

Although it may lack the intense urgency of Waru, Vai carries an equally strong emotional resonance, and functions as a similarly effective argument for extending cinema's narrative scope beyond the typically narrow range it has long inhabited. The rich storytelling veins being tapped into here suggest a universe of possibilities.

And just in case it has to be mentioned: The Islands all look absolutely stunning.


Betsy Luitolo, Evotia-Rose Araiti, Maliaga Erick


Nicole Whippy, Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Matasila Freshwater, Amberley Jo Aumua, Miria George, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Dianna Fuemana, Becs Arahanga

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A compelling collection of authentic narratives from female Pasifika film-makers tell a figurative life story.