ImagiNATIVE 2019: Our Review of ‘Vai’

ImagiNATIVE 2019: Our Review of ‘Vai’

‘Vai’ means water in Maori and other Polynesian language. It’s an apt name for a girl or a woman with hidden strengths. It’s also the title of an anthology movie showing vignettes of the lives of eight girls and women. All of them come from different ages and different parts of the Pacific. They’re learning about their culture and freedom. And nine different female directors from the Pacific show these protagonists making their own decisions.

I am an outsider to the Pacific Islands culture. And I like that some of the rituals I see are not for me. But most of what the directors and actors show are universal. Vai opens its audiences’ eyes to the different genres in which these stories can live in. One of the vignettes take place where fantastical things happen. There, Vai of the Solomon Islands (Betsy Lania Luitolo) experiences a bittersweet loss.

The filmmakers arrange these vignettes in a linear way. It starts from the youngest girl and the next being an older, wiser version of her. Some of these vignettes show the forces either hindering or helping each Vai. Vai shows its protagonists having an effect on their environment, this showing the power of girls and women. The film also shows a matriarchal society. These girls and women work and move as kinetically as the film making does.

One of the vignettes is about a woman of Niue (Maliaga Erick). Here, she drives her granddaughter before she goes to a University in New Zealand. The directors shoot these short segments in long takes and in glorious color, making these transitional scenes fluid. The film captures both the difficulties and the ease of these transitions. These protagonists conjure up a resolve in themselves as they support other women within their many communities.

For more information on Vai go to

  • Release Date: 10/24/2019
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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