Music documentary

‘Small Island Big Song’ Is The Most Important Music Documentary You’ll Watch This Year

Lyrics by Tom Parker

We chat with Tim Cole, the director of the groundbreaking film.

With the events of 2020, the issue of climate change has been overshadowed by a phenomenon that also reflects the worrying trajectory of society.

Yet, while COVID-19 might be considered a once-in-a-generation event, climate change is not. It’s bubbling like a steaming cauldron nearing its climax and while public angst boils over, for policy makers there are always bigger issues at stake…

Climate inaction gets much of its publicity through powerful advocates and delegates, but you rarely hear the story from the ground. Raising the voices of those on the frontlines of the crisis, the musical documentary little island big song seeks to change the narrative.

Filmed for three years on 16 island nations across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, little island big song is the brainchild of Australian filmmaker and music producer Tim Cole and Taiwanese film producer BaoBao Chen.

As part of the masterful and extraordinarily comprehensive production, Cole and Chen met with more than 100 local artists, elders, community groups and musicians, to record songs that spoke of their heritage and environment.

Assembling the recordings bit by bit, Cole and Chen took the songs across the ocean in a gradual process that saw artists from different islands and different environments add their language, their instruments, their unique influence to that particular song.

“We left our jobs and our home in Alice Springs, packed our lives in the back of the ute, and with $5,000 between us, we set out to meet artists who identified as the traditional keepers of the islands across the Pacific and Indian Oceans,” says Cole. .

“Our goal was to record a song with them, a song that they were proud to represent their island and their heritage with, a song that we could share across the ocean so that other island artists could contribute as well.

“It took us a year to get started – writing grants, crowdfunding and finding artists to work with – then at some point before we were really ready, we just decided to start, and the rest would fall into place over time.

“It was just the two of us with no real budget, so we could only carry what we could carry without excess baggage on flights. That’s why when you watch the movie, the microphones are on sticks or hanging from trees, we couldn’t afford to carry mic stands, but we paid all the musicians.

Why a song you ask me? Well, music in this form has more meaning than just the contemporary ideation of it that these people engage in. Music carries the weight of heritage, place and expression, while providing an ineffable experience for the listener or, in this case, the viewer.

“Songs are a great way to convey ineffable feelings and knowledge. The artists who create the film’s narrative, soundtrack and song line all made a choice to keep their traditional culture alive through their artistic practice, they sing above all in the language of their ‘country’, they play instruments of their heritage and, whether they are aware of it or not, they are the guardians of the song, they carry an unbroken cultural lineage of their homeland and their legacy,” says Cole.

“A cultural voice shaped over countless generations of survivors with and dependent on nature in this one place, a voice that shares a sympathetic resonance with their homeland, whether we can put it into words and meaning or not, as c is probably the case.

“It is through these songs composed by the traditional keepers, filmed in the wild in their native lands that tap into their cultural lineage with extended interludes in nature and culture, that I hoped would reveal an ineffable sense of nature And without context, no interviews, no voice-overs in English, which would take you out of the spell of the songs, the languages ​​of the country and the natural sounds.

Through little island big song, Cole and Chen did not set out to create a documentary about climate change, but rather their ambition was to foster a better understanding of the Earth we call home today. To help people better understand its importance, scale and fragility.

little island big song is an attempt to express human relationships with the Earth through song,” continues Cole. “I think the facts on these issues are all there, scientists and journalists play a role in our society, the facts and predictions are known and we have the ‘means’ to react. But we are still not acting with the determination and urgency that nature and our future generations demand of us.

“We clearly lack the ‘will’, which is where I think artists have an important role to play now, we all make our decisions from within, our personal stories and art can speak to those stories personal and societal We are music producers/filmmakers with a profile in the global music scene, so we asked ourselves what is the most powerful thing we can do for this issue with our resources – produce music for those who are on the front line.

Not yet released in Australia, The Boite organized an exclusive watch party and a question-and-answer session of little island big song which will take place on Saturday 14 November. Those who tune in will be the first Australians to watch the groundbreaking documentary.

“At this stage the film has not yet been released in Australia, it has just completed a nine week theatrical tour across Japan, but this will be a rare opportunity to experience the film in Australia, so we are truly grateful to The Boite to organize it,” says Cole.

“You will experience the movie of course, [but] there will also be a live performance by one of the film’s artists, Charles Maimarosia of the ‘Are’are people of the Solomon Islands, and we will be connecting virtually from our pad in the middle of the forest in Taiwan to present the film and follow a question-and-answer session. »

little island big song visible from now until Saturday, November 28. Grab a ticket via the La Boite website.

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