When your culture is commercialized and its history downplayed or erased, there are times you have to remind yourself and others that who you are isn’t for someone’s entertainment.
|Screenplay By||Wei Li|
|Date Released (Film Festival – Tribeca Film Festival)||6/14/2022|
|Genre(s)||Drama, Young Adult, Animation|
|Content Rating||Not Rated|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
Tehura has loved to dance since she was a child and even makes a living from doing so. However, when tourists disrespect her dance, her culture, and what gives her life, she reignites her passion for dance by making it a means of protest.
Things To Note
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
Born and raised in Tahiti, Tehura has always loved to watch her people dance and even join in on the fun. However, taking part in the exploitation of her culture, and dealing with the glares of tourists who fantasize about her more than are appreciative of how she dances, has grown old.
Paul is but a simple tourist who is mesmerized by Tehura’s performance and, like his friends, seems to not understand boundaries.
The Dance Animation
Movement in animation is something many take for granted. The flow of an arm, whether swinging as someone walks, or presenting grace in a dance, can be challenging. So to see Tehura move in a way that is fluid and really shows her years of training, it is like when people call a location part of a story, like New York City. But in this case, the animation doesn’t just feel like the medium in which the story is being told, but part of the story itself.
It presents the would-be innocence of Paul and the rage at his arrogance and ignorance from Tehura. The animation also amplifies both the world Paul sees and the one Tehura lives in differently, almost like a third party who wishes to understand both and try to show you there are multiple sides to this story.
An Animated Protest
Throughout the world, many BIPOC cultures have to commercialize their culture for survival. The indigenous especially, throughout the various pacific ocean nations, find themselves having to water down and sometimes bastardize their culture for tourist currency while being subject to colonizers owning the place they work and dictating how they can express themselves.
One live-action example is “The White Lotus,” but a better example is “Tehura.” In watching her dance for fun, to connect with her community, you see the joy which comes from learning about one’s culture through movement. The way you are to move your hips and feet, the positioning of your arms, and how the combination makes a language of its own. Then there is the music, the clothes, and you getting to put your own spin on it in informal settings and adding a bit of yourself to the moves.
Yet, for Tehura, this isn’t the case if she performs for tourists like Paul. She is foreign and mesmerizing – exotic. What she presents is not a cultural exchange but rather seen as a seduction from a foreigner’s point of view. Hence the way Paul and his friend act, and even if Paul apologizes for his friend being too forward, this doesn’t excuse him for still wanting to cross the boundary between performer and audience.
And in watching Tehura’s final dance, a protest and scream, letting out every emotion she has held back, you are given a powerful piece of animation that doesn’t have too many peers.
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